It's basically lasagna but with eggplant instead of noodles.
Winter is the perfect time to make something that has a lot of cheese. A pot of fondue works. So does a grilled cheese sandwich. There's something about a great quantity of melty, gooey cheese that counteracts the long nights of January through March, and perhaps the king of cheese-heavy comfort dishes is Eggplant Parmesan. Is it as easy as breaking out a pan and melting cheese on bread? No, it is not. But a whole pan of Eggplant Parmesan is the perfect thing to share with your family or friends, or just to have for leftovers on an achingly cold day.
This Eggplant Parmesan recipe from Kathy Kitchens Downie, RD, at Cooking Light doesn't require anything too fancy—the hardest ingredient to find might be the whole wheat panko crumbs, but in a pinch, regular panko will work too. You can make your own tomato sauce if you're feeling ambitious, but a good sauce from a jar is OK. The trickiest part of the recipe I ran into is breading the eggplant, which can quickly turn your whole kitchen into a panko-coated mess.
A good tip I learned in the culinary program I took is to use two sheet pans—quarter sheet pans are ideal if you have them, but any two square shallow dishes you have will work, like a cake pan or a small casserole dish. Put them side by side with the egg wash in one and the bread crumb parmesan mixture in the other. This means you aren't walking back and forth with egg-dripping eggplant, and you can also dunk several slices of eggplant at the same time. It also helped to press the panko mixture into the sliced eggplant a bit before shaking off the excess, to ensure that the breadcrumbs stick. If they really aren't sticking and you want to ensure an even coating, you can always just dunk it back into the eggwash and into the bread crumbs again.
Finally, it's kind of hard to find eggplants that are exactly one pound each so you may end up with leftover eggplant slices after layering. No problem, those leftovers can go into an eggplant bolognese or you can make eggplant butter, a truly heavenly vegetarian-friendly dip. But this recipe is pretty forgiving as far as amounts go, so if you have a little extra cheese or sauce or basil that you want to throw in there, sure, why not? I'm not going to try to stop you.