Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Walmart, an Eggplant, and a Birthday Dinner

For the past two mornings, I've been walking around Walmart BEFORE work! I've realized that some of the mad-dashing and rushing that comes with this time of year can be alleviated if not totally banished by getting up earlier in the day and going to Walmart before the work day even begins. It's true that on occasion I have been a big-box store snob (when I can afford to be) but I do compromise my values when money is tight and I need things, lots of things all at once, and don't have the time or money to make fifteen stops. Today I needed a piece of Christmas fabric and an eggplant. Really, where can you buy both those things at once? As I entered Walmart, I was greeted by an older man wearing a Santa hat who looked very much like the jolly old elf. He nodded his head and, as I passed, I heard him greet the next customer, a "regular" I imagine by their conversation, "Hey Rita, how are you this morning?" in a familiar way, much like neighbors over a fence, or a small store owner and a life-long customer. Are these big-box stores really all that impersonal when a community forms within them, where the employees and customers become acquainted and care about each other? Now, I'm not so ignorant or blind to the fact that in some communities these stores displace smaller businesses, robbing jobs and customers from local employers. I also know that this is the way that a big segment of the retail world is evolving. It's good to know that, now and then, I can go in to pick up a few things and not feel that I'm supporting the downfall of the small business owner. It's a dilemma. And believe me, if you want the best Walmart experience, go very early in the morning, or very late at night to avoid the frustrated mother/screaming child--screaming mother/frustrated child scenario (hard to tell who's more mature). You know what I'm talking about!


With that Walmart eggplant, I'm making eggplant parmesan for my daughter Meghan's birthday dinner. She's a vegetarian and she loves it. I serve it with a salad and Italian bread. Cinchy. I make it the easy and convenient way, with Italian bread crumbs, jarred sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. Here's the recipe:


2 eggplants, about a pound each
1 egg, beaten with about 1/2 cup milk
Italian bread crumbs
olive oil
large jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
grated parmesan/romano cheeses

Wash and slice eggplant (with peel on) width-wise into about 3/8 inch slices (more than a quarter inch, not as big as a half inch).
Dry surface with paper towels.
Dredge slices in flour.
Dip in egg mixture.
Coat in bread crumbs.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When hot, cook one layer of eggplant rounds until nicely browned. Turn over to brown the other side. When both sides are browned, drain on brown paper or paper towels. Continue until all slices are done. Add olive oil and bring up to heat as needed between batches.

Pour 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce in bottom of large rectangular baking pan. Spread to cover. Layer eggplant, enough sauce to cover, 1 cup of mozzarella and a sprinkling of the parmesan/romano cheeses, repeating until everything is used up, ending with a final layer of the cheeses. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 additional minutes or until cheese begins to brown on edges.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

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