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Sunday night dinner

By Ilene Duffy

Ilene Duffy

Issue #121 • January/February, 2010

"Tradition! Tradition!" I can still hear the bellowing song from Fiddler on the Roof that we listened to over and over as kids. Some of us have religious traditions that we hold dear, while others have family traditions that are carried on for the next generation to enjoy. One tradition that has taken hold with my own family is Sunday night dinner. There's no soccer, golf, or band practice, no appointments that need to be kept, even magazine work stays at the office most Sundays. It's a good day to spend time at home with my apron on from breakfast until long past dinner.

For this week, I decided to revamp an old eggplant Parmesan recipe that I hadn't made in a long time. My sister, Sally, gave me a copy of Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook about 20 years ago, and it's still one of my favorite cookbooks to find inspiration for a savory treat for my family. While reviewing this recipe from this mostly vegetarian cookbook, I thought the addition of chicken, mushrooms, and an onion would make this already delightful dish a little more hearty for a main course. You know me by now... I can't leave well enough alone!

The best way to get this dish ready is to prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time before attempting to layer it in the casserole. It's best to clear off a counter as well, since you'll be using a lot of different bowls and plates for all the mixtures and ingredients. One more thing before we move on to the how-to of this great dish: remember how I'm always talking about how busy life is and that I'm usually on the lookout for quick and easy recipes? Well, this isn't one of them. So don that apron, pour something yummy to drink, and get ready to have fun in the kitchen.

Eggplant and chicken Parmesan
Eggplant and chicken Parmesan

Eggplant and chicken Parmesan

1 large eggplant, sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
1 ½ lbs. chicken breast, cut in 1-inch strips
olive oil for frying
1 red onion, chopped
15 small mushrooms, sliced in half
flour (3-5 heaping Tbsp.)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
1 28-oz. can tomato puree
½ tsp. each dried oregano, basil, and Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced in thin strips
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


Slice eggplant and put on a plate.

Mix eggs in a bowl, then pour into a shallow dish.

Spoon flour onto a plate.

Place bread crumbs in a mixing bowl.

Gently heat tomato puree on the stove, adding oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, and parsley flakes.

Grate or slice mozzarella cheese and put in a small bowl.

Grate Parmesan cheese and put in a small bowl.

Chop onions and mushrooms, then heat olive oil in frying pan and fry gently until just tender.

Slice chicken into strips and place in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease large oblong casserole dish. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. (I use two pans just to speed things up.) When oil is hot, dip slices of eggplant in flour on both sides, then in egg, then in the bread crumbs. Fry on each side 3-5 minutes until slightly browned and you can pierce them easily with a fork. Place slices on a plate.

Add more olive oil to pans as necessary. Dip the slices of chicken in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove from heat.

To layer the casserole, place half of the eggplant slices, then half of the chicken in the bottom of the casserole, spoon on half of the onion and mushroom mixture, about half of the tomato puree, then sprinkle on half of each of the cheeses. Add another layer of each of the ingredients, with the cheeses on the very top. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

I always thought I was pretty lucky, but now I'm certain of it. At this writing in early November, I've got bunches of fresh, new Swiss chard and spinach coming up in my totally neglected greens patch that I overwintered from my 2008 garden. Free food! Here's an easy side dish to use up some of this healthy, dark green vegetable.

Swiss chard, spinach, & cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups Swiss chard, coarsely shredded
1 cup spinach, coarsely shredded
5-6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. unsalted shelled sunflower seeds

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. When hot, add Swiss chard, spinach, and garlic. Saute the mixture for 4-5 minutes until greens wilt. Sprinkle with cheese and sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.

Something's missing from the Sunday night dinner table if I don't manage to get a loaf of bread started in the bread machine at about two o'clock. I tried this recipe for the first time and the addition of garlic got a thumbs up from Dave.

Garlic bread

5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ¼ cups milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
dried oregano and thyme (a few shakes of each)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp. yeast

Mince garlic, heat oil in small frying pan, and sauté gently about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

In a microwaveable bowl, gently heat milk and butter. Add cooled garlic and mix.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, oregano, and thyme. Add Parmesan cheese and mix.

In bread machine pan, add warmed milk mixture, then the flour mixture. Make a small well on top of the flour and add the yeast. Set the machine to the dough cycle. When done, grease and flour one long bread pan or two smaller loaf pans. Gently squeeze gas from dough and form dough to fit your pan. Cover with a damp towel to rise about an hour. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake about 25 minutes until golden. Remove from pan to cool.

Read More by Ilene Duffy

Read More Food & Recipes Articles

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