I have always liked eggplant. Problem is, I have always disliked the way it was prepared. I never understood the point of covering it in a coating of breadcrumbs an inch thick and then frying it in oil. What ended up on my plate tasted of oil and stale bread without even a hint of the eggplant lying in repose underneath.
This is not to say that I haven’t tried the most famously breaded and fried eggplant dish of all – Eggplant Parmesan. It is to say that I have rarely had one that tasted remotely of eggplant or Parmesan . I have on a few occasions enjoyed a much lighter version of the dish (thanks Dad) and found it to be delicious. For me though, I just don’t see the point of doing anything that covers up the eggplant. Instead, I would rather save the dredging, breading, and frying, and move straight on to the eating.
In August, our garden’s eggplant patch grows exponentially. It seems that each fruit doubles in size every two days. It makes my daughter’s mouth water and my mind spin trying to think of all the different ways we can make use of their beautiful fruit. Our current favorite recipe substitutes eggplant for the pasta usually found in lasagna. It really showcases the beauty of eggplant. It is a perfect marriage of bright tomato flavors with the eggplant’s incredible earthiness.
I am a big believer in homemade tomato sauce. I make it for spaghetti, pizza, traditional lasagna, enchiladas, basically everything I make that either contains tomato sauce or is served with it. In fact, I don’t honestly remember when I had last used sauce from a jar until last week. I was running errands, and running painfully short on time. I had promised to make this dish and knew I had two choices. I could welch on my promise and cook something else for dinner in spite of the disapproving look on my daughter’s face, or I could buy a jar of sauce and use it instead. So, I reached for Newman’s Own Organic Marinara Sauce and hoped that I wouldn’t be sorry. I wasn’t. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Neither could my rather discerning family. So, feel free to use sauce made from scratch or straight from a jar. Either way, you’re making a delicious, homemade dinner. Your secret will be safe with me.
Roasted Eggplant Lasagna(adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday FOOD)
1 ½ pounds eggplant
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons oregano, dried
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Brush foil with olive oil. Set aside.
Trim stem from eggplant. Slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on baking sheets. Brush each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.
Mix ricotta, egg, oregano, and 1 ounce Parmesan in medium bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Spoon 1/2 cup of marinara sauce into bottom of casserole dish. Arrange a third of the eggplant slices in a single layer on top of the sauce. Top with one third of the ricotta mixture. Spread 1/2 cup of marinara sauce followed by another layer of one third of the eggplant. Top with another third of the ricotta, 1/2 cup of marinara, and the remaining eggplant. Spoon the remaining marinara over the top layer of eggplant. Place dollops of the remaining ricotta mixture on top of the marinara. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Place the filled casserole dish on top of a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and beginning to brown, approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before serving.