Eggplant parm as it’s made in Italy does not include breadcrumbs, so it’s naturally paleo-friendly and gluten-free. I’ve also included an option using a coating of almond flour to approximate the breadcrumb effect, which is a modification created in American red sauce places. Do not short-cut the drying steps; the whole idea is to turn the eggplant into a non-greasy, non-watery platform for the unctuous umami ingredients. Serves 4-6.
2 medium eggplants, about 2 lb, peeled and cut lengthwise into 3/4 inch slices
Marinara sauce, about 1 c
Tomato paste, about 2 T (optional)
Mozzarella cheese, fresh or cured, grated, about 1 c
Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1/4 c
For the almond flour option:
1/2 c almond flour, plus more as needed
1 egg, beaten
Method: liberally sprinkle salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant and stand up in a colander in the sink or over a dish. Allow to rest 1 hour or more, until the eggplant has expelled a good amount of liquid. Using clean paper towels, squeeze the remaining moisture out of each slice. Use immediately, or reserve overnight pressed between two layers of paper towels between two half sheet pans in which case the eggplants will lose even more of their moisture.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a medium skillet and heat to about 350 degrees (medium heat) so that when eggplant is added it will sizzle immediately. Add dried eggplant slices one at a time and cook until brown, then turn over and cook on the other side. Drain on paper towels. If the eggplant has been properly prepared, it will absorb very little oil.
Lightly butter a 8-inch square baking pan and start with a layer of eggplant, then ladle on some good marinara sauce (to make it more beefy, mix with tomato paste before using) then a layer of grated mozzarella, then a few teaspoons of parmesan cheese, then a sprinkle of oregano. Maybe some garlic (fresh or powder) too. Finish with a layer of eggplant and add parmesan and a few pats of butter. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then pour off any juices that have accumulated and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Almond flour option: proceed as above, but dredge the eggplant pieces in almond flour, then in egg, then again in almond flour before frying. This does result in a nice coating, but it absorbs considerably more oil than the Italian method.