Cooking with a Jersey Girl, Book Review and Recipe

Yesterday was my favorite kind of day. I spent most of it in my kitchen cooking up a pot of marinara sauce and then putting together this scrumptious Eggplant Parmesan from Cooking with a Jersey Girl by Joyce Ann Staples. Now, you know the minute I saw the title I would be asking the Author to let me review her book. How could I resist?

It’s only a little over 100 pages, but Cooking with a Jersey Girl is filled with recipes handed down through Joyce Ann’s large Italian family. Everyone from her Mother, Grandmother, Aunt’s and Uncles have helped the author compile all her family’s favorites.

The Author in her own words, “My purpose in telling these stories is that I feel all this will be gone with my generation. My daughters do not have the memories I have of their great grandparents. I feel I keep their memory alive in every recipe, every story, and every delicious bite.”

As many of my readers know, I am profoundly envious of people who have recipe rich family backgrounds. I live vicariously through stories of these families and love to learn from them as much as possible. So, with this in mind, I dove into Joyce Anne’s book and plucked out “Frank’s Eggplant Parmesan.”

The one surprise in this recipe is the Swiss Cheese. I’ve never used Swiss in Eggplant Parm. Oh, wait, I take it back, that’s not the only surprise, it also calls for putting Parmesan in the eggs before dunking the eggplant.
This was a new one for me also.

You can tell when reading the recipes that Joyce Ann knows her way around the kitchen. This sometimes results in the omission of detailed instruction that the novice cook might need like how thick to cut the eggplant slices. It also doesn’t say if she salts and sweats the eggplant to remove the bitterness. I always do this, so I did. And lastly, the recipe calls for “a handful of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.” Since the recipe is from Frank, a male, I figured I’d better use two handfuls.

This dish was delicious and I am so looking forward to trying many more of the Author’s family gems. I’ve already bought the head of cauliflower to make the “Cauliflower with Carmelized Onions.”

I should also mention that Ms. Staples’ “Penne, Pesto, Tomatoes and Gorgonzola” recipe was just selected as a winning entry in a contest put on by Jersey 101.5’s Big Joe Henry Show. So, congratulations JoyceAnn. I will be making this one for sure.

Frank’s Eggplant Parmesan
1 – 2 firm eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil
1 pound swiss cheese
1 pound mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
2 cups grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 -2 quarts marinara sauce

Heat oil in large skillet. Beat eggs and milk together, add cheese. To breadcrumbs, add dry seasonings, salt, and pepper. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, then into breadcrumbs, placing them carefully (a few at a time) into the hot oil. Fry until golden or both sides and tender. Drain on paper towels. When all eggplant has been cooked, start assembling by spooning a ladle of sauce into bottom of 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Place first layer of eggplant on the sauce. Sprinkle with a handful of mozzarella, a handful of grated cheese, and a single layer of Swiss cheese. Spoon sauce over top and start the layering again until all the eggplant has been used. Top with Swiss cheese and sauce. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees or until bubbly and hot. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.