Freezer-Friendly Eggplant Stacks
Serves 24 (fills three 9- by 13-inch baking dishes).
Note: The more uniformly round and elongated the eggplant, the more consistent the stacks and the easier they are to pack into the baking dishes. The eggplant stacks can be frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost completely before baking. Leftover sauce can be frozen for up to 1 year. From Cathy Barrow.
For the eggplant:
• 1 c. grapeseed oil, plus more for greasing the baking dishes, divided
• 1 c. flour
• 16 eggs
• 8 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (about 2 c.)
• 1/2 c. packed chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 2 tsp. dried oregano
• 2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
• 10 c. plain fine dried breadcrumbs
• About 4 large Italian purple eggplants, cut into 1/2-in. slices (6 lb. total; see Note)
For the sauce:
• 1/4 c. olive oil
• 6 garlic cloves
• 6 oil-packed anchovies
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 2 medium onions, diced
• 4 quarts crushed tomatoes
• 1 c. packed torn basil leaves
• 1 1/2 tsp.kosher salt, or more as needed
• 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
• 3 (8-oz.) balls fresh mozzarella
For the eggplant: Line 1 baking sheet with several layers of paper towels and another baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a little grapeseed oil to lightly grease 3 (9- by 13-inch) baking dishes (or several smaller shallow baking dishes). Place the flour in a medium bowl; whisk the eggs and cheese together in a separate mixing bowl, then whisk in the parsley, oregano, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes; place half the breadcrumbs in a third (medium) bowl.
Coat each eggplant slice in the flour, then in the egg-cheese batter, then in the breadcrumbs, making sure each slice is completely coated. Place them on the parchment-paper-lined baking sheet as you work. Add more of the remaining breadcrumbs as needed.
For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the garlic; cook, but do not brown, until the oil is well scented. Remove and discard the garlic; increase the heat to medium and add the anchovies and butter, letting the butter foam and sizzle. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies.
Stir in the onions; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 14 minutes or just until translucent. Stir in the tomatoes; once they start to bubble at the edges, cook uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and saucy. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper; turn off the heat. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil in a large, wide skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add enough eggplant slices to fit in a single layer. Fry for 3 or 4 minutes per side, until well browned and crisped. Transfer to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet as you work. Repeat to use all the eggplant, changing the oil (another 3 tablespoons heated each time) and wiping out the skillet every two or three batches, or the burnt bits will accumulate and turn the oil black and bitter.
Spoon the sauce generously into the bottom of each baking dish to a depth of about 1 inch; you might have sauce left over. Make stacks of 3 slices of eggplant, tucking a nugget of mozzarella cheese (about the size of a cherry tomato) between the slices. Each baking dish will fit about 12 stacks, snugly. The stacks should not be submerged in their sauce.
Cut a piece of parchment to cover the surface of each filled baking dish, then wrap the entire baking dish in aluminum foil. At this point, the casseroles can be frozen for up to 6 months.
When you’re ready to bake (and the eggplant casserole has been defrosted and is still wrapped), preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the wrapped casserole for 30 minutes, then discard the foil and parchment; bake until the stacks are crisp, another 10 minutes or so. Cool just a few minutes before serving.
To freeze for later, date, label and write the cooking instructions clearly on the package, wrap the entire dish in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost completely before baking.
Pickled Red Onion and Chard Stems
Makes 2 cups
Note: Chard stems are tender, delicious and just made for pickling. When you trim greens for DIY freezing, you’ll have enough left over to make this pickle. Use it to top tacos, stuff inside a sandwich or layer on a burger. The pickled red onion and chard stems can be refrigerated for about 1 week. From Cathy Barrow.
• 1 medium red onion, cut in half, then into very thin half-moons
• 1 c. chard stems, cut into 1-in. pieces (see Note)
• 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 c. water
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 tsp. pickling spice
• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Combine the onion and the chard stems in a medium glass or ceramic (heatproof) bowl.
Combine the vinegar, 1/2 cup water, salt, pickling spice and crushed red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat; once the salt has dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, remove it from the heat.
Pour this hot brine over the onion and chard stems, making sure they are submerged; let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving or storing. Or cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.