It's been surprising to me how natural it feels to be preparing very satisfying evening meals each week that do not include meat.
About a year ago I made a conscious decision to not only take on the Meatless Monday challenge, but to try to have at least two meatless meals a week. It was a decision based on doing a small part to help care for the planet and give a big boost to personal health and wellness.
As the Lenten season was approaching, I began thinking of all those Fridays from the past, when my family was young and we strictly observed abstinence from meat. I remember lots of fish sticks and potato nuggets, macaroni and cheese and grilled peanut butter sandwiches. And yes, even a few trips to a drive-up window for fish sandwiches, fast. Ugh! At that time, a meal without meat was nothing to look forward to.
Thankfully, I've become much more creative and adventuresome in my quest to eat less meat. When I recently watched a television cook prepare an Italian-style egg sandwich with fried eggs, Parmesan cheese and marinara, I was inspired to experiment and develop an Italian-influenced meatless meal.
Think of Egg Patties Parmesan as deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan - without the eggplant. So rather than coat slices of eggplant with eggs, seasoned breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, why not mix those ingredients together and make fluffy, light Egg Patties Parmesan?
Six eggs, whipped together, get an infusion of flavor and texture with the addition of onions, garlic, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of dried parsley flakes. As the patties cook in hot olive oil, they puff and turn golden.
The creation of the Egg Patties takes place as a hearty, but quick-and-easy, tomato sauce simmers in a saucepan. One large can of plum tomatoes is the base for this sauce, enhanced with garlic, onions and dried Italian seasoning blend.
Just before serving, the Egg Patties simmer in Hearty Tomato Sauce, soaking up some of the Italian flavors.
Egg Patties Parmesan in Hearty Tomato Sauce is a simple dish, made with ingredients you might always have on hand. It is an economical meal with familiar flavors and does not take long to prepare, making it very family friendly.
With inspiration from a television cook, bits of two recipes from my copy of "The Fine Art of Italian Cooking," by Giuliano Bugialli (Eggs Poached in Tomatoes and Eggplant in the Style of Parma) and some experimenting in the kitchen, I came up with a meatless epicurean delight.
But good grief, no wonder my young family ate fish sticks on meatless Fridays. I didn't have time for inspiration, research and experimentation.
Egg Patties Parmesan in Hearty Tomato Sauce
Hearty Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning blend
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes
Salt to taste
1/2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes or 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add chopped onion and cook over medium-low heat for about 7 minutes, until the onions are soft and tender. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Pinch Italian seasoning as you add it to the pan. Coarsely chop plum tomatoes and add them to the pan along with all of the juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for 15 minutes. Taste sauce and add salt, if needed. Remove from heat and cover.
While Tomato Sauce simmers, make Egg Patties Parmesan. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to mix. In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Add the dry bread crumb mixture and stir to blend. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, scoop egg mixture into pan, using a heaping tablespoon for each one, forming 3 or 4 patties. Cook until patties are set and edges begin to turn golden brown. Use a metal spatula to turn patties over. Continue to cook until browned on the bottom, adding more olive oil as necessary. Transfer patties to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat procedure with remaining egg mixture, creating a total of 12 patties.
Arrange egg patties in pan of sauce. Return to burner and simmer over medium heat until egg patties are heated through. Makes 4 servings.
Tips from the cook
--Egg Patties Parmesan can be prepared a day or two before serving. Believe it or not, you can even freeze them. Hearty Tomato Sauce only gets better with age. Refrigerate in a tightly sealed glass jar or bowl.
--Risotto made with Arborio rice is a nice accompaniment to Egg Patties Parmesan in Hearty Tomato Sauce.