I like to think of eggplant as the Moby Dick of produce–slogging through it may require more energy than it’s worth, but doing so gives you serious bragging rights. Like brownie points, but… you know, veggie points.
I think we can agree that of all produce items, eggplants are the weirdest. Evidence:
Exhibit A: Native to India, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family.
Exhibit B: Salting, rinsing, and draining of sliced eggplant is known, disgustingly, as “degorging.”
Exhibit C: Technically, eggplant is a berry, and those tiny seeds inside of it contain nicotinoid alkaloids. Yep, eggplant is a close relative of tobacco. You’d have to eat 20 pounds of it, though, to pick up the amount of nicotine in a cigarette, so no worries.
Though all that makes it sound thoroughly unappetizing, eggplant’s dense texture makes it a handy substitute for meat in some dishes and pasta in others. Always on the lookout for ways to trim carbs, I was thrilled to find this recipe for Eggplant Lasagna.
Recipe: Eggplant Lasagna, courtesy of Real Simple
- 1/2 pound plum tomatoes, halved
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 TB olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 large egg (We used Eggbeaters.)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil (We used about 2 tsp. dried basil.)
- 1/4 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan
In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
In 2 batches, arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Broil until charred and tender, 3 to 4 minutes per side.* (See below more on this.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, basil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Spread half the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. On top of it, layer a third of the eggplant slices and half the ricotta mixture. Repeat with another layer of eggplant and ricotta. Top with the remaining eggplant and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the Asiago.
Reduce oven to 400º F. Bake the lasagna until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
He Said, She Said:
We made this dish on a chilly fall weeknight, and appreciated its heartiness. It’s tasty… but boy, it’s more labor-intensive than one would think. Making the tomato sauce in the food processor was a cinch, and the filling was simple; it’s just the eggplant part that was difficult. I had to keep popping the eggplant slices back in the oven, because they never got charred – just slightly blackened on the outside and soft on the inside. Maybe our oven doesn’t get hot enough, or perhaps the key is to really coat the slices in olive oil. (I’m a skimper on oil.)
One other critique is that the sauce is a little watery, so maybe in the future we’d add more olive oil, or really strain the tomatoes before processing.
Still, the finished product was straightforward, dense, and satisfying. John admitted he didn’t miss meat in it at all. Given the exertion of effort, though, we both agreed that, like Moby Dick, maybe it’s best saved for a languid Saturday evening or afternoon.