Like a good stew, this eggplant dish is an extremely satisfying vegetarian comfort food. It’s great to make on a weekend where a few initial prep steps provides you with a slow cooked meal in the afternoon. Although the eggplants are initially fried, this is a pretty healthy dish otherwise. The texture of these eggplants aren’t nearly as meaty as you might encounter in an eggplant parmesan recipe. When they’re dipped in the egg batter, provided you don’t cut them razor thin, they will remain substantial patties, but silky soft at the same time. —NakedBeet
Slice the eggplant thinly into 1/4? rounds. Cutting them at no thicker than this ensures they’ll cook through in the sauce. Set up a bowl with flour and season it with a dash of salt and pepper. Set up another bowl with eggs, seasoning it with salt and pepper, as well. Dredge each eggplant slice first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg. Lightly fry the eggplant on both sides until golden brown. Reserve the fried slices on a plate while you work on the next step.
In a large bowl, mix the tomato sauce with all the herbs, salt, vinegar if you’re adding it, and water.
In a cast iron wide pot, saute the garlic, onions and carrots until the onions are slightly translucent. Ladle some of the tomato sauce over the onion mixture. (The onion layer prevents the eggplants from sticking or burning to the pan, while flavoring the sauce, too.) Start layering the eggplant slices in the pot, pouring a bit of tomato sauce between each eggplant layer. At the very end, pour enough sauce to just cover the eggplants. Depending on how big of a pot you’re using or how many slices you get if your sauce doesn’t cover the eggplants a bit, it’s ok to press down the eggplants slightly below the sauce line or add a mix of tomato paste, water and salt to just cover the eggplants. (I love having a tube of tomato paste on hand for just these kinds of emergencies!)
Over a very low flame, cover the pot and cook for 40-45 minutes. Check on the liquid every so often, adding more of the sauce so the eggplants stay submerged in the sauce. Once you remove the eggplants from your pot, the sauce can be whizzed up smooth or served as a textured sauce along with the slices.
Serve about 3-4 slices per person with a dollop of sour cream and fresh chopped parsley.
Notes: Cooking them over the stove top rather than in the oven is traditional and also prevents the sauce from drying out. The tomato sauce should be tangy and though you may want to skip the frying step, you really shouldn’t. The minimal frying called for in this recipe preserves the shape of the eggplants while they cook in the sauce. If you want to “health it up” by removing the batter or battering them and then baking them instead of frying them, I can’t guarantee that the texture or flavor will remain as Grandma made it. I did experiment with a panko bread crumb instead of flour once and the crumbs disintegrated into the sauce, making it thicker and making the eggplants an unappealing departure from the truth. The bonus to this eggplant recipe? You don’t need to presalt them to take the bitterness out. They come out perfectly without this typical traditional step.