Papa O’s Eggplant Parmesan with Fresh Mozzarella

Chef Owen Snyder, fondly known as “Papa O” to most of us, shared his famous Eggplant Parmesan recipe. This dish is full of the flavors and colors of late summer — it can be made as a lighter style dish or as a richer, cheesier version with the additional cheese. Either way, this dish is exceptional!

INGREDIENTS:

2 large eggplants
1 recipe of homemade spaghetti sauce (or 1 1/2 quarts purchased sauce)
2 large yellow bell peppers, cored, seeds and ribs removed
2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeds and ribs removed
2 zucchini, 6 to 8 inches long (or crookneck)
2 medium red onions, peeled
2 bunches rainbow chard, ribs removed*
Salt and pepper
3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil
3 large balls fresh Buffala mozzarella or other fresh mozzarella
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan or similar hard Italian cheese
2 cups grated Monterey jack/cheddar mix (optional)

* You can use other vegetables, too, such as fresh spinach, mushrooms, or bok choy

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Slice eggplant into half-inch rounds. Arrange eggplant slices on large baking sheet(s) lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. (This draws the bitter moisture out of the eggplant.) Let the eggplant sit for at least half hour and beads of moisture have formed on the flesh.

Prepare the vegetables:

  • Slice peppers into 1/4 inch strips.
  • Cut onions in half lengthwise, and then turn and slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Cut zucchini in half in the middle, then slice the halves lengthwise so you have a flat edge, then julienne the flat pieces.
  • Julienne the chard by rolling up 2 or 3 leaves and slicing the roll.

Combine the vegetables in a large stainless bowl.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add vegetables to pan and sauté in batches, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Don’t overcook the vegetables – there should still be some “crunch” to the veggies.)

With a paper towel, dab the moisture beads off the eggplant slices. Using a pastry brush, brush each piece with a little olive oil. Sprinkle each piece with Panko breadcrumbs to cover. Place eggplant in the oven and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs show some color.

To Assemble:

Lightly oil 1 large or 2 smaller baking dishes (at least 2 inches deep and large enough to accommodate two layers).

  • Spread a layer of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Add a layer of eggplant to cover the bottom.
  • Add a layer of vegetables.
  • Add a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese, about 9 slices.
  • Add a layer of sauce.
  • Sprinkle a layer of grated Monterey/cheddar cheese (if using).
  • Sprinkle a layer of Parmesan cheese.
  • Repeat  layer process once more. Finish with a layer Parmesan.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until hot and bubbling and the cheese is melted and a little browned.

Remove the dish from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into portions to serve.

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