It’s lighter, it’s fresher, and, for me, it’s even tastier! I’ll tell you why.
In this dish, the eggplant is baked, not fried; it is topped with a ground walnut mixture, not totally breaded; the cheese is fresh, not baked; and instead of tomato sauce, it’s a fresh tomato salad.
Eggplant: Bake rounds in oven at 350 degrees (or on grill) for about 20 minutes, turn at the halfway point. Helpful clean-up hint: I used a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and brushed with olive oil. I tented the foil over the top for about 15 minutes to help ensure the eggplant cooked through and when it was all done, I just threw it away.
Topping: Grind a handful of walnuts with a clove of garlic, a few pieces of basil and a little olive oil to create a paste-like texture. Add in breadcrumbs and grated cheese and toast in a skillet.
Tomato Salad: Halve grape tomatoes and toss with black olives and torn basil/parsley. Dress with vinaigrette made with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and zest. Let sit. Drain before topping.
Plating: When eggplant is removed from the oven, pat on walnut topping. At this point, you can put it under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp up or begin the layering process starting with eggplant, topping, mozzarella (repeat) and then top with salad.
É molto deliziosi. Though you may love eggplant parmigiana, you must admit…it’s basically mushy and without much texture difference. Taking the eggplant from the oven and layering it with fresh mozzarella lightly warms the cheese (you can see it starting to breakdown on the first layer) while retaining its chewy texture. The walnut breadcrumb topping adds a little crunch (and more taste because of the walnuts) and the tomato salad on top does ‘its thing’ by brightening everything up!
I really loved this dish and encourage you to try it. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the traditional eggplant parmigiana the same way again.