Do you know what is awesome about doing a little blog project with your friend? You get to go on vacation and still have posts go up! Woohoo! This week Mel reincarnates an old favorite with a healthy flare. This is one of those dishes that I’ve never prepared. Heck, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten Eggplant Parmesan. When I get back from vacation, and I’m ready to start thinking about cooking again, I think I’ll have to give this a shot. In the mean time, get fresh with Mel as she makes it for her and her family.
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Eggplant is a vegetable I have grown to love. Back when Tim and I first started dating, he would order Eggplant Parmesan and ask me to try it or suggest we make it sometime. I couldn’t be bothered. It just didn’t appeal to me. I would go to the grocery store, see the odd looking vegetable and think, eh…just looks like a purple squash so, um NO. (Squash will be what I tackle next.) So, years past and we had our first daughter, Haley. When she was 2years old, her life was all about pizza and pasta and there was rarely anything else we could prepare for her that she would sit down and eat without a battle. By battle I mean throwing pieces on the floor and me giving up and breaking out the ziti. I just wanted the girl to eat. I knew she wasn’t into chicken and I’m not sure what made the light bulb go off, but I had my “ah–ha” moment. I imagine this little puffy thought bubble appeared above my head with a big purple eggplant inside. I collected recipes and tried with flour coating, breadcrumbs, jarred sauce and then homemade sauce until I found what tasted best and guess what? SHE ATE IT! I figured I should give it a try. I did and have been hooked ever since.
Lately my taste buds have been yearning for some eggplant parmesan. Let me preface this by saying I’ve been making some significant changes to the way I eat. It’s impossible for me to give up carbohydrates completely (as well as other things that I love) without wanting to hurt someone, so I’m eating them in moderation or finding healthier ways to make things. Eggplant has vitamins C and B1 as well as a high fiber content which, along with helping our digestive process, also acts against coronary heart disease. Another benefit of eggplant is its anti-bacterial, diuretic effect due to its level of potassium which also plays a role in regulating blood pressure.
I searched the web for a bit and found a few recipes for “Healthy Eggplant Parmesan.” I chose this one and worked from it. I will admit I was a skeptic at first.
Here are some also helpful facts I found online here.
- Purchasing Eggplant: Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Full-size puffy ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter. Choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that is heavy for its size; avoid those with soft or brown spots. Gently push with your thumb or forefinger. If the flesh gives slightly but then bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation remains, it is overripe and the insides will be mushy. If there is no give, the eggplant was picked too early. Also make sure an eggplant isn’t dry inside, knock on it with your knuckles. If you hear a hollow sound, don’t buy it. NOTE: Whether or not there is an appreciable difference, I don’t know.
- Storing Eggplant: Eggplants are very perishable and become bitter with age. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a day or two of purchase. To store in the refrigerator, place in a plastic bag. If you plan to cook it the same day you buy it, leave it out at room temperature.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Ingredients (I do a good portion of my shopping at Trader Joes, so you can easily find these items there):
- 2 medium eggplants (1 medium = approx 1lb)(pick glossy purple eggplants. Dull purple it usually means they are over ripe.)
- 3 egg whites (anyone have a clue what to do with the unused yolks?)
- 3 Tbsp of water
- 1 – 1 ¼ cup of breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano
- Large Can of TJ’s marinara sauce (about 28oz)
- 3 large handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese (Approximately ½ a bag, but I would just eyeball it to your taste.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat two baking sheets with Olive Oil Spray or whatever cooking spray you have on hand. I peeled the eggplants with a veggie peeler because we do not prefer the skin on. Then cut into about ¼ inch thick slices. Whisk up the egg whites with water in a shallow dish. Get the breadcrumbs ready in another dish. Mine were not preseasoned, so I added salt, pepper basil and oregano. Next you dip the slices in the egg and then cover with breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet until you have finished. I gave them all another quick spray of olive oil on top as well.
Bake them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes on each side until golden brown.
I’m a fan of this process now because I never realized how much work it actually took to stand at pan and frying eggplant so that it was perfectly golden.
Next take a ceramic baking dish about 8 x 11 ½ (2 inches or so deep) and spray it with olive oil lightly. Cover the bottom with the marinara sauce sprinkle some basil & oregano and add a layer of eggplant overlapping a bit. Cover with sauce, more basil & oregano and a good handful of shredded mozzarella and repeat. I made 2 good layers. Pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes and it’s done.
The recipe makes enough for six servings. I’m posting the nutritional information because I imagine it’s pretty accurate and it doesn’t make me feel so bad about eating its cheesy goodness.
Per serving: 203 calories; 6 g fat (3 g saturated, 2 g mono unsaturated); 13 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrates; 12 g protein; 8 g fiber; 563 mg sodium; 777 mg potassium.
I did this late Tuesday night. Tim asked what I used the baking pans for and I told him to bake the eggplant first. He made a face, naturally, and I shoved a fork full at him. He hadn’t even finished chewing and said “THAT is WICKED good!!!” and then a swallow followed by “Fucking awesome!! I’m gonna have some of that right now with a salad.” My thoughts exactly.
The kids ate the leftovers heated in the microwave Wednesday for dinner. Haley gobbled hers up and although Rory gave me a “what the hell is this” face at the start, she signed “more” and threw a fit when I told her “all gone.”
I have to admit it was actually even better the next day and didn’t have that greasiness that fried eggplant leaves in the dish after it sits.