Eggplant Parm Bites [the baked vs. fried challenge]

Last week, I found a super cute little farm/farmer’s market practically in my backyard. How I had lived in my house for a year and hadn’t found it sooner, is a mystery to me. In a fit of excitement, I started filling bags left and right with any fruits and veggies that looked delicious (and they all looked more delicious than my food store’s produce isle).  Two little baby eggplants ended up in one of those bags, and ended up sitting on my counter until one of them went bad.  Without enough to make a full eggplant parm dish, this simple little side dish of eggplant parm bites came to life!  Typically I try to make things as healthy as I can without completely ruining the taste, so I decided to do a little test with this recipe.  I baked half of the bites, and fried the other half.  Which turned out better? Keep reading…

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant (see the second crappy one hiding back there? It was no bueno when I cut it open)
  • ½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup egg whites or the whites from about 3 large eggs
  • Canola oil (I accidently pulled the EVOO off the shelf as a force of habit, but really used Canola instead. EVOO is good for flavor, but other oils such are canola, peanut, or vegetable are better for frying.)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices.

Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg whites, letting the excess drip off, and then into the breadcrumbs, coating each slice as much as possible.

Now onto the baking versus frying challenge: I placed half of the slices on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and baked at 400° for about 15-20 minutes.The other half got thrown in the frying pan with just a few tablespoons (I know I said I was frying, but deep frying is completely unnecessary) of canola oil. Flip to brown each side, then place between paper towels to soak up the extra oil.

Top each slice with about a teaspoon of marinara sauce (in retrospect, thin slices of tomato would have been even more amazing)…

…and a pinch of shredded mozzorella (again in retrospect, fresh mozzarella would be even better), and place under your ovens broiler for about 5 minutes or until all the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with oregano or italian seasoning, and get ready to taste-test the results!

And it turns out… they taste almost exactly the same! If I had closed my eyes and tasted one of each, it would only have been the excess oily texture that tipped me off.  But who likes to feel like they’re pouring that oh-so-healthy (haha, not) oil on their tongue anyway?! As far as flavor and texture goes, they were basically identical. So, the official results: Save yourself a slap on the wrist from the Gods of nutrition and go for the healthier, baked version!

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