Did You Know? Women in the Orient used to use the peel of the eggplant as dye to stain their teeth gray because that was all the rage.
Eggplant parmesan has always been a favorite of mine. The crusty, golden top, and the smooth and cheesy inside. But after changing my eating habits, and trying to really limit my dairy intake, I wanted to make an updated version of this classic to fit my new tastes, but still satisfy that craving. Not to mention, make something that the rest of my family would enjoy.
There's something about Italian food that is so satisfying and fun to enjoy with friends and family, but it can also be not the healthiest of cuisines. I try to get everyone in my family to eat a little healthier, and by offering fresh ingredients and flavors they enjoy, I think healthy cooking can be quite simple.
Although this recipe does not provide the oily, thickly breaded cutlets of eggplant you might be used to, the flavors are in no way lacking. I love the freshness of this dish, and the fact that each ingredient is really present. The burst of the sliced tomato against the roasted eggplant, along with the sweet basil make this a wholesome dish your family will love anytime of year.
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea Salt and Pepper
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
5 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup Bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. dried pasta (any shape will work)
Place eggplant rounds on a baking sheet and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Feel free to layer eggplant if needed, just make sure each layer is covered with salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes (you'll notice the moisture leeking out of the eggplant-that's what you want). After 30 minutes, rinse the rounds, then squeeze any moisture out of them (don't worry about tearing them, they've pretty much turned into sponges now). Pat dry, season with salt and pepper, and set aside while you heat up a pan.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray or a little olive oil. I used a griddle here, so I could cook all the eggplant at once. I tend to use cooking spray when I grill eggplant, because it has a tendency to soak up the oil way to quickly, and you end up using a bit too much. Grill the eggplant until nicely browned on both sides, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400.
In a large baking or casserole dish, pour about 1/2 to 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes. Layer the eggplant on top of the crushed tomatoes. Follow with a layer of sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of some torn basil leaves. Repeat, ending with a final layer of tomatoes, and some more torn basil and the minced garlic. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta and heat the leftover crushed tomatoes in a small saucepan. When the eggplant is ready, it's time to plate. Put a serving of pasta on each plate, top with some leftover crushed tomatoes, and finally place a few eggplant stacks on top. Sprinkle any basil you have left on top and serve with additional parmesan cheese. Enjoy - this was plenty for my family of 5. And made an awesome sandwich filling for lunch the next day.
*Note: The next time I make this, I will definately use another eggplant and a couple more roma tomatoes, so there would be three layers of eggplant and tomato slices, instead of two. Since I tend to add additional veggies into whatever pasta dish I eat, I served my pasta over a bed of steamed broccoli - really tasty and filling. FYI: The picture at the top was taken before I baked the whole thing. The sun was going down, and I wanted to capture the jist of it. The picture below is baked and plated (minus the broccoli).