Eggplant Parmesan (version LIV)

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2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (if cooking in a sauté pan)
1 1/2 cups good-quality marinara sauce, homemade or commercial
2 large eggs, beaten
1 large, firm eggplant, trimmed and cut crosswise into an even number of 1/2 inch slices
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat a counter top panini maker or double-sided electric grill or heat the olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce in a saucepan.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the eggplant slices and turn them in the egg to coat them evenly. Leave them to soak in the egg for a few minutes.

Spread the parmesan evenly over a dinner plate. Sprinkle on the Italian seasoning or oregano and thyme, and toss lightly with your fingertips or a fork to blend. One by one, press the eggplant slice into the parmesan mixture to coat them on both side and transfer them to a sheet of wax paper or parchment.

Place the eggplant slices in the panini maker, double-sided grill, or sauté pan a few at a time, taking care not to overcrowd them. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, then transfer to a plate and set aside while you cook the remaining batches.

Lightly salt all of the grilled eggplant slices. Return half the eggplant slices to the panini maker and arrange them in an even layer. If there is not room for half, use as many as will fit comfortably. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the marinara sauce onto each slice (depending on the size of the slice), top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mozzarella and cover with answer eggplant slice. Close the lid and cook until the mozzarella has melted, about 2 minutes more.

Heat the marinara sauce that you set aside in the saucepan to a simmer. Ladle a spoonful of the sauce onto each plate and place the eggplant stack on top. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprig of oregano and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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