Continue to reinvent your favorite game-day food with healthier options this season. Instead of chicken strips and similar fried fare, swap the greasy prep and meat for a vegetable substitute. Vegetarians do not often partake in the fried food frenzy, but eggplant is one of the few exceptions to the rule; further improve its health content by baking rather than frying. Try this simple Oven-Fried Eggplant Sticks with Marinara Dipping Sauce to accompany your next game.
Believed by early Europeans to be a cause of insanity as well as an aphrodisiac, eggplant is as versatile as any vegetable can be. Eggplant is featured in international dishes from Indian curries, Middle Eastern Baba Ghanoush, Italian ratatouille, spicy Chinese Szechuan, Japanese tempura and more. One of the most common eggplant dishes seen in America is eggplant parmesan, and this Oven-Fried Eggplant with Marinara Dipping Sauce is not unlike the Italian-based meal.These crispy eggplant sticks are actually a meeting-point between eggplant parmesan and french fries. In other words, it makes a delightfully crunchy and breaded appetizer, perfect with ice-cold beers and a football game or two.
Although you can certainly serve these eggplant sticks with ranch dressing — or, in some circles, even powdered sugar — the golden breading combined with a marinara dipping sauce is positively reminiscent of the San Francisco 49ers for all you northern California NFL fans. Make it a double whammy by purchasing your preferred jarred marinara on sale. For example, Newman’s Own is currently on sale for $2.77 per jar at Safeway, with the added bonus that the company donates its profits to charity — now, that’s a touchdown! Bread ’em up, eat ’em up, and see here for more on the Niners, including the new season schedule and ticket info.
- 2 large Japanese eggplant
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 jar marinara sauce
Trim ends of eggplant, and slice eggplant into skinny strips that are four to five inches lengthwise and half an inch thick. Sprinkle with salt, and let rest on a plate or over paper towels to draw out excess moisture and bitterness. Rinse thoroughly after half an hour and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs with a couple tablespons of water in a bowl. In a second bowl, mix the panko bread crumbs, garlic salt, oregano, basil and pepper. Fill a third bowl with the flour.
Make an assembly line with the three bowls. Dredge an eggplant strip in the flour, Next, submerge it in the egg wash. Finally, roll the eggplant stick in the bread crumbs until fully coated. Place on a lined baking sheet, and continue until all the eggplant has been breaded.
Spray the breaded eggplant sticks with cooking spray (this helps them brown in the oven). Bake for fifteen minutes, then remove and flip. Bake for an additional fifteen minutes, or until the breading has turned golden-brown. Serve the Oven-Fried Eggplant Sticks with a side of heated marinara sauce, and enjoy.