Bread crumbs, the home baker’s best friend

Baking as a hobby leads to the inevitable:  too much bread.  A two-person household can only consume so much bread before it stales.  (And a freezer can only hold so many wrapped loaves and rolls before it overflows.)  I try to keep the bread tide in check by making breadcrumbs from time to time:  I search out the oldest bread in the freezer, let it come to room temperature, and send it for a whirl in the food processor.

Yesterday’s freezer purge yielded three whole wheat pistolettes, one cheese-filled crescent, and a single slice of flaxseed bread.  Processed along with a coarsely chopped clove of garlic and a quarter cup each of grated pecorino romano and parmesan cheeses, the breads became seasoned crumbs crying out for a gratin dish.  Fortunately, I had several fat eggplants, a little marinara sauce, and a dish just the right size…think of this gratin as a deconstructed, lower-fat eggplant parmesan sandwich.

Eggplant gratin

  • 1-1/2 cups homemade breadcrumbs (made by grinding stale bread in a food processor)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
  • generous handful parsley leaves (optional)
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup marinara or other light tomato sauce
Combine fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, cheeses, and parsley leaves in a food processor; pulse until garlic is finely chopped.  Reserve crumbs.  Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on two baking sheets.  Bake at 375 until barely browned in spots; turn slices over and bake 5-8 minutes more.  In an oval, 12″ gratin dish, spread 2-3 tablespoons of marinara sauce and arrange the eggplant slices, overlapping, to cover the tomato sauce.  Spoon tomato sauce over the eggplant slices, then sprinkle 3/4 cup seasoned crumbs evenly across the layer.  Repeat the eggplant, tomato sauce, and crumb layer.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until the crumb topping is well browned and the tomato sauce bubbles.
Note:  additional salt and/or peper may be necessary, depending on the kind of breads used for the crumbs and the level of seasoning in the tomato sauce.
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