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But with a beautifully purple fruit in my possession, I couldn't help but see what I could do. I wasn't really thinking Manicotti, but Eggplant Parmigiana sounded like a good choice.
I dug through various recipes, and they mostly said the same things. Bread the eggplant, fry it, layer it between homemade tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella, and basil leaves up in 2-3 layers in a baking dish, and bake until it is melty and toasty.
I started with a 28 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes which I emptied into a sauce pan on medium heat. To that, I added half an onion (cut in half.. so two quarters) left intact, 5 tablespoons of butter, a shake or two of salt, one clove of garlic, minced, and about half a cup of red wine.
I left that to simmer down, occasionally smashing the tomato pulp against the pan with a spoon.
I sliced the eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and dipped them in flour, then egg, then seasoned bread-crumbs. Then in about 1/2 inch of olive oil, I fried them until golden.
Back to the sauce, once it had cooked down, and the onion was translucent, I removed the onion, and used a potato masher to break down the remaining pulp. I suppose I could have broke out the immersion blender, but I wanted to have it a little chunky. I let it simmer a while longer until it thickened.
Once the sauce was ready, I broke out the small baking dish (if you use 2-3 eggplants, go for the 13x9 dish), and starting with the sauce, I layered it with the eggplant, slices of mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and parmigiana reggianno, and managed 3 layers with about 12 slices from the one eggplant. Sauce on top, more parm, and into the oven for about 20-25 minutes at 350 until it starts to brown and is all melty.
Not only is it vegetarian, but with this preparation, even a meat lover like me won't miss it. I'm going to have to start hunting down my own eggplant now. :-)