Eggplant parmesan, a thank you, and a great book to read with kids (or without them)

A dear friend is moving soon, and last week I had the good fortune to get to host a going-away dinner for her. Word on the street was that her favorite meal is eggplant parmesan. I like eggplant parm, but A) have not made it in years, and B) often find it bland, watery, and underwhelming all around.

To avoid those pitfalls and ensure a gold-medal casserole, I crowd-sourced beloved recipes and tips from some of my most trusted foodie friends, and then came up with my own recipe. Wendy suggested baking the eggplant rather than frying it, a method she came across in a Food52 recipe written by Nancy Jo. Great tip as eggplant is the greediest olive oil sponge in the world, and I hate oily dishes.

Suzanne uses ricotta in addition to mozzarella and parmesan, and as I both love ricotta and am always happy to make yet another pot of it, I went with her advice to use it. I also decided to use panko for some extra texture and depth.

The tomato sauce recipe is my own, one that I've been tinkering with and perfecting over the years. I think it's sublime. So, here's the recipe, Eggplant Parmesan, and here are some pictures to whet your appetite. Included in the headnote are tips about using male eggplants as they are less bitter.

I must also take this time to thank you all for the outpouring of enthused support for my last post, When you've got a siphon but needs a bellows. It's always so heartening to hear that my words resonate with you.

And lastly, if you have kids, nieces/nephews, children you mentor/babysit/work with/love, 8 years and up, I implore you to read the profound book, Wonder, with them. Heck, if you have no children in your life, I still implore you to read Wonder. Written by R.J. Palacio, Wonder topped the New York Times book list, has won a host of awards, inspired the Choose Kind movement, and is soon to be a motion picture in wide release.

It is a fictional story of a 10-year-old boy, August Pullman, who was born with a craniofacial deformity. When we meet August, he has undergone dozens of reconstructive surgeries but still looks very different. His mother has home-schooled him until now, but we soon learn that he'll be entering fifth grade at a mainstream private school in the near future.

Oliver and I are reading it for his book club, and we have enjoyed and hung on every page. It has offered more than a few opportunities for deep discussion about kindness, people's insides versus their outsides, bullying, justice, anxiety, shame, and love. It is a very, very dear story that's not sugar-coated or superficial. It is both tough and uplifting. We both found ourselves in tears this morning in one particularly moving scene. Ol has never before cried in a book and seemed nervous about doing so.

"Bug, I have cried in so many books over the years. That's when you know a story is a really good one that will always stick with you; when even if it's fiction you love and care for the characters. You hurt for their losses and cheer their successes and root against the bully and hope kindness and justice prevail. What you're feeling is the impact of a great book. Lucky us."