Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fresh from the garden: Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Here's the next recipe in my Fresh from the Garden series: inspiration for creating healthy, delicious recipes from your garden-fresh produce.

I got two beautiful eggplants from my best friend’s garden and created this recipe (which I've already made twice I loved it so much).  I’ve already decided, by the way, that I’ll be planting eggplant next year in my own garden! This casserole-type recipe easily feeds a family of six or makes enough for delicious leftovers to take for lunch the next day (wink wink—now I’ve got you packing a lunch too). It’s a delicious, easy and time-saving dish that’s sure to please, even if you think you don’t like eggplant.

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium eggplant
  • Optional: ½ a yellow onion and a green bell pepper or 2 squash and/or zucchini (see how interesting it can get?)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, at least; toss in however much you like (I like about 8!)
  • 10-12 basil leaves, rinse and pat dry with a towel
  • Fresh ground pepper, if you have it, otherwise "regular" pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, no added salt, or 4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 carton fat-free ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (trust me--you want this)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped or from the spice jar
  • 1 can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • ½ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, made with 2% milk

Spray the sides and bottom of a large casserole dish (9x12) with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get a large cutting board. Slice the tops and bottoms off the eggplants, then slice in ½-inch to ¾-inch slices. Slice other vegetables into ¼ inch slices, if you opt to include them. Slide to the side. (The vegetables, not your feet).

Roughly chop basil and garlic—I like the pieces big and chunky.

Stir parsley into the ricotta or cottage cheese.

Layer the ingredients: start with half the eggplant, other veggies, basil, garlic and pepper, then 1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomato), and all the ricotta or cottage cheese mixture.  Repeat; you’ll end with the second can of tomatoes (no ricotta on the top).

Pour tomato sauce over the top and gently shake the casserole dish so the sauce runs down in between all the ingredients.

Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumbs along the top. Place back in oven without foil for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes. Last time: remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice into six pieces and serve over top of whole wheat rotini noodles (2/3 to 1 cup cooked). No need to prepare a pasta sauce; the casserole provides enough tomatoes and juice to coat the pasta too. Enjoy with green beans, steamed broccoli or salad.

P.S. All of you who are freaked out by vegetarian meals (ie. sorry honey): this is one of them! I promise you won’t miss the meat.

If you try it, please let me know what you think!