Reunion Times

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

When I graduated from high school in 1972 it was the best of times. Finally we were the seniors; we had drivers’ licenses and extended curfews. We relished the recently implemented university style curriculum and open campus. The rigid dress code was abolished and we happily tossed our circle pins and Villager skirts with their matching Pappagallo shoes for blue jeans and open toe sandals.

But it was also the worst of times. A war was raging in Viet Nam and all student deferments for the draft–except for divinity students– had been eliminated. A lottery system was established and suddenly at age 18 we realized life could be extinguished by the random act of some stranger plucking a number from a bin.

Earlier, in our junior year, we learned firsthand how painful an extinguished life could be when one of our most beloved classmates died in a car accident. Our class bonded in a state of shock and disbelief. Strangers hugged, all of us wept and with one boy’s passing, we learned grief as well as Algebra 2 that year.

Fifty years later lots of those bonds, although stretched by time and distance, still exist and this summer a group of us got together to celebrate our past and, for one weekend at least, not worry so much about the future. Friends came from all over the country to revisit their old hometowns, Rumson and Fair Haven, and it was great fun to catch up.

And it was a great opportunity for me to join those out-of-towners and run around and visit with some who stayed and see firsthand how, as fellow empty nesters, they were handling the whole decamping, downsizing, and relocating thing.

One of my faves was a house that was literally on the beach in Sea Bright. In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy pummeled a two-story home adjacent to the town beach, that property was eventually sold to a developer who knocked the original house down. And then, by simply switching the new structure’s orientation, was able to build two homes front to back on the single lot. My friends live in one of them.

Admittedly due to updated coastal building codes, we are talking about flood-prone Sea Bright after all, there are quite a few steps in this four-level home (luckily there is an elevator). But what a great idea to line all those flights of stairs with family photos! And what a good idea to put the century old chair on the landing for those in need of a breather–a lucky junk week find over forty years ago from Rohallion, a notable Rumson estate. 

Besides the stairs, the next biggest worry is window washing–which is a very small price to pay with views like this.

One of the highlights of the visit, for me, was to see the pitch pine breakfront front and center in this lovely beach house–that we had sold to the owner’s mother over thirty years ago! This cabinet has its own Sandy story too. Left standing in nearly a foot of water after the mom’s house was flooded, it cleaned up beautifully–except for one high water mark stain in the inside of the bottom cabinet. My friend said her kids thought she should paint the backboards a contrasting color; let’s hope she doesn’t listen to them. I think it looks great just the way it is.

Enough with the antiques though; I loved the modern kitchen and the wide-open floor plan. That backsplash is amazing. I’m not sure if it is quartz or granite on the island but whatever it is has definitely just the right amount of pattern to complement what’s going on in the rest of the space.

But the highlight, the piece de resistance as you will, of this home is the fabulous views. They’re everywhere, and seriously, when standing on the third-floor balcony, you felt like you were aboard ship.

Up there this empty nest is more like a seagull’s nest, with views and vistas all around. We could have stayed and soaked up that salty air all day–but there were things to do and people to see so we sadly said goodbye.

When, after nearly two weeks of my oldest friends coming and going and wining and dining, the party was finally over, and things settled down, it was a little sad. Thus I was especially heartened to find this recipe for Eggplant Parmesan from Food & Wine in my inbox. How in the heck did those internet spies know not only that Eggplant Parm is my absolute favorite dish but that I also had a garden full of fresh eggplants and juicy tomatoes? Normally I would make my own marina sauce but (surprise) I actually mostly followed the recipe and used a jarred  Jersey Fresh tomato sauce I found at Sickles and it was scrumdiddlyumptious. So delicious that even though this recipe is meant to serve 8, Keith and I polished it off in two nights!

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan



Pat eggplant dry. Drizzle both sides of eggplant rounds with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil in preheated oven until lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Let cool for 10 minutes. (Because I am not a broiler fan, I cooked the baby eggplants skin side up in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes).

Step 4 Reduce oven temperature to 425°F. Layer tomatoes and mozzarella slices between eggplant rounds, slightly overlapping, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan, top with breadcrumb mixture, and bake at 425°F until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil, and serve. (I kept the oven at 400 degrees).