Normally around this time of year, I would be telling you about tomato canning. Normally, I would relish in describing the whole process, it’s laborious nature and the well-worth-it results. I would tell you that you MUST MUST MUST preserve tomatoes. Normally, I’d have photos to show you and anecdotes to tell. Normally.

But this year, due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, I missed out on our family’s tomato canning festivities. The weekends got consumed with other things, and eventually we were nearing the end of September and locally-grown tomatoes had become scarce at the markets. And then it got colder and suddenly it was October.

It makes me a bit sad to know that the annual ritual had slipped by me this year. To compensate, I spent much of September/early October fitting in as many tomato recipes as humanly possible. A ludicrous amount of tomatoes have found their way into my kitchen in the last several weeks – Roma from my little garden with Rob & James, San Marzano from Nonna’s backyard, Cherry from Sophie’s place and a lovely, yet-to-be-identified variety from the small vines that grow in my apartment’s shared courtyard. Yes – it’s been fortuitous times in the tomato department. Which means that my cookbooks are littered with sticky-notes on every page with the word tomato, pomodorotomate. I’ve definitely put my time in. Any day now I might morph into a giant red Beefsteak and dutifully rolled away by a gang of Oompa Loompas.

Toxic tomato love.

Below is a nifty little recipe that will help you get through that last batch of tomatoes. It’s a quicker and lighter take on eggplant parmigiana and is nice layered on top of a bed of spinach or a ladleful of polenta.

Breaded Eggplant Stacks with Tomato Sauce (serves 3-4) 

Fast tomato sauce (enough for this recipe + leftovers)

  • 6-8 medium tomatoes, chopped (or one jar of Nonna’s tomatoes)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion or leek, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • knob of butter

Heat up a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add a glug of olive oil and the knob of butter. Once the fats are hot, add the onion and reduce the heat to medium. Sweat the onion for about a minute or so, then add the minced garlic. Stir. Allow the onion and garlic to cook and turn golden, but do not allow to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 20 minutes*, stirring occasionally.

*Note: my nonno used to start his sauce in the morning and let it simmer for a few hours before serving it at lunch. The taste of a well-simmered sauce is unparalleled.  If you have the time, I recommend simmering your sauce on low heat for a couple of hours.

Breaded eggplant

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 small eggplants
  • 1/2 cup flour (flavoured with fresh or dried oregano, salt and pepper)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare your breading station: beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, breadcrumbs on a plate and panko on a plate. Dredge eggplant slices in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.

Arrange them separately on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle additional olive oil over them. Place them in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time.

On a plate (or on top of salad, spinach, polenta), layer baked eggplant slices, tomato sauce and grated parmesan until you reach a stack size that pleases you. Finish with a light grating of parmesan.