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Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Zoodles

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I think I’m a little obsessed with this picture.

Right now Oodles of Zoodles is in the hands of my very trusted and capable brand manager/graphic designer. She showed me a proof recently and when I got it I opened it eagerly, whizzing through the pages (it’s an ebook so I was looking from my phone) to get to THIS recipe only to find…she’d suggested another picture.

I was not happy.

While I ultimately have veto power on the picture issue (sorry, but it is my book!) I think I was just really emotionally attached to this picture.

Let me tell you how it came about.

Firstly, to me Eggplant Parmesan was a no-brainer for this book. For years I ate this at Italian restaurants with a side of spaghetti. For years I stuffed myself to the guild with mouthful after mouthful of delicious, bready, season-y, fried goodness.

For the first few years I loved it, I didn’t even know it was eggplant. That’s mostly because my mom would order it and I’d beg for hers and she’d oblige, or get me my own. So I never heard it ordered before. I don’t think I would have been averse to the idea, though. My mom was big on vegetables. To this day I cannot have a plate of food without a green vegetable on it. If I have other types of non-starchy vegetables for my family (yellow squash, for example), I have to go and at least make myself a side of green veggies (which most of the time I can’t finish so it’s ridiculous) because a dinner plate is not a dinner plate without a green veggie.

Rest in peace, Mom, I remember what you taught me.

S’anyway, back to the picture. My oldest daughter (who, as of the time of this writing, will be 17 – ack! – in four months) wants to be a photographer. And when I say “wants to be a photographer” I  mean she’s holding out for the photography industry to accept iPhone pictures as truth.

Until then, I thought it would be a good idea for her to learn to shoot photos with a DSLR.

Occasionally I photograph things other than food (as in, try to photograph them artistically) but not too often. So my main tutorials were related to food. And usually the child would hem and haw as I prattled on about aperture, and light-swiping and staging and table-scapes. Then when it was time to shoot a picture, she’d roll her eyes, make a half-hearted attempt to focus the camera and snap…a picture I could not use.

But the photography gods were smiling on us this day. And I mean that in a very real way. There were just too many factors that came together that day. Consider the evidence:

  • When asked did she want to help take pictures, the child eagerly said yes
  • When it was time to take the pictures, the child gave input on the staging of such pictures
  • When the child didn’t understand why I was doing something she asked questions

It. Was. Magical.

One day I should do a post about what it takes to photograph food for a blog. It’s a time investment! From start to finish, the fastest I’ve ever done it is in two hours. (Yes…two hours.)

So we get the table all ready, into the good light, put the food onto the plate, made sure the food did not look gross, made sure of no extraneous splatter that would make the picture look gross and after all of that, I asked my child, my daughter, “do you want a first go at it?” And she nods.

I suggested starting with close-up shots, as I always do. I’m good at close-up, overhead shots. I do them first so I don’t get completely disgusted with the pictures I’m taking and give up. After I have some pictures I know will work, I get risque. So I have her taking the pictures and she says, “we should make it like you are about to take a bite.”

Guys. She made a suggestion. My daughter. Who up to this point resented the fact that I even remember that she kinda-sorta-but-not-really wants to do photography. Made. A. Suggestion. Magic!

Usually I don’t want to tweak the food until I’ve shot it from a few angles but since, as you’ll see from the recipe, this yields about 4-5 good portions of eggplant parm, I decided we could go for it. So she ever so gently uses the fork to pull out a bite (which wasn’t hard because, I tell you, this thing bakes to tender perfection). Then after taking what seems like a bazillion shots (stopping every few shots to inspect), she says, “Ma, I think I got one?”

The picture you see above is that picture.

So you can understand why I’m a little attached to it. If you are a mom you know anything your kid does, no matter how mutilated or butt-ugly it looks (cuz let’s be honest…my kids have made art that keep me awake at night), you just love.

I may frame this picture and put it in my living room. So what if it’s eggplant. It’s a great picture!

Anyway, I’ll stop babbling now and give you the recipe.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Zoodles
Print Recipe
In this healthy swap we ditch the frying - and many of the carbs and fat along with it - and keep the indulgent, luscious flavor of this classic Italian dish!
    Servings Prep Time
    4-5 people 20 minutes
    Cook Time
    1 hour
    Servings Prep Time
    4-5 people 20 minutes
    Cook Time
    1 hour
    Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Zoodles
    Print Recipe
    In this healthy swap we ditch the frying - and many of the carbs and fat along with it - and keep the indulgent, luscious flavor of this classic Italian dish!
      Servings Prep Time
      4-5 people 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      1 hour
      Servings Prep Time
      4-5 people 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      1 hour
      Ingredients
      Servings: people
      Instructions
      1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
      2. Set up a dredging station with the egg whites in a bowl and a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper whisked together on a plate.
      3. One at a time, dredge eggplant slices first in egg whites, then in the bread crumb mixture, then repeat. When finished, arrange on a rack placed inside a cookie sheet.
      4. Bake eggplant 25 to 30 minutes or until fork tender and coating is crispy.
      5. Prepare the sauce by sautéing onions and peppers in a skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray two to three minutes or until softened. Add marinara sauce, cover and simmer about 20 minutes.
      6. After salting and draining zoodles of their excess water, flash cook them one to two minutes in boiling water. [NOTE: If making lunches ahead, do not cook the zoodles at all. When you reheat the dish the zoodles will cook perfectly.]
      7. Plate the dish by placing zoodles on a plate. Top with a piece of the baked eggplant, about 1/3 cup (or more) of the sauce mixture and top while hot with shredded mozzarella cheese.
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