Eggplant Parmesan Gratin

3 (1-pound) eggplants
cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds tomatoes, quartered (about 4 medium)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

Before you put the eggplant in the oven, use this simple trick so that the thicker part of it cooks as evenly as the edges: Make a lengthwise slit down the middle of the eggplant halves. To save time in making this gratin, go ahead and simmer the tomato mixture while the eggplant bakes. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Slice eggplants in half lengthwise. Working with each eggplant half, cut side up, make a 1-inch-deep slit lengthwise down the middle to within 1 inch of each end. Place eggplant halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 475 degrees for 35 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven; cool on pan 10 minutes. Peel eggplant halves; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (pieces may fall apart).

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently (mixture will have a pasty consistency). Stir in basil and pepper. Spoon tomato mixture into a food processor; process 1 minute or until smooth. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Arrange one-third of eggplant slices (about 1 cup) in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon half of tomato mixture (about 1 cup) evenly over eggplant slices. Repeat procedure with remaining eggplant slices and tomato mixture, ending with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake gratin at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden.

Yield: 4 servings



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