Wash eggplant and slice it into ¼-inch slices, then toss the slices into a colander. Salt the eggplant generously, tossing the slices to ensure they are well coated with salt. Leave the eggplant in the strainer for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Next, rinse the eggplant well and dry the slices in between layers of paper towels pressing firmly.
Bake The Eggplant Slices:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.Brush both sides of eggplant slices with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; place the slices on an ungreased baking sheet.Bake 8 minutes. Turn and continue to bake until lightly browned and tender; about 7 to 8 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Make the Tomato Sauce: (Optional)
While the eggplant slices are baking make the sauce.Add the olive oil, spices and tomato paste to a small saucepan. Allow the tomato paste to brown, but do not burn. Stir in the tomato sauce and allow it to warm through. Remove from heat; set aside.
Prepare the Mini Eggplant Au Gratin
Brush four 10-ounce ramekins with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and place onto a foil-lined baking sheet.Put 1 tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each ramekin.Place one eggplant slice in each ramekin. Top each eggplant with about 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella cheese. Then cover with 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Repeat the layers twice more, pressing down on the eggplant slices to squeeze as much of the air out in between as possible.Top each au gratin with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Finish by adding the parmesan cheese and a dash of oregano on top of each au gratin.
Bake, uncovered, in the preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the gratins are bubbly and the cheese is melted.Turn on the broiler to brown up the cheese for an additional 5 minutes, if desired.Allow the mini eggplant au gratin dishes to cool about 10 to 20 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh basil, if desired.
About Salting Eggplant: Salting the eggplant tightens and firms the flesh of the eggplant. This also helps remove some of the excess moisture that’s trapped inside and helps give the flesh a creamy texture. The salt also helps season the eggplant from the inside out. (Click HERE to find out about salting eggplants)Selecting An Eggplant: When selecting the eggplant ensure that it will fit into the ramekins. If the eggplant isn’t wide enough, just use 2 to 3 small slices to make up the layer.Tomato Sauce Shortcut: Use your favorite marinara or tomato sauce if you have one you'd like better.Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Magazine
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