I made this to serve as a first course for a lunch date, even though… and especially since it’s not something I usually cook with… I also didn’t know how my lunch companion felt about it.
Two more courses I figured, so I could get away with one being not so great. “If it’s hideous, don’t worry, I won’t be offended…” is how I prefaced serving it. Silly me. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth!! It was most surprisingly, wonderfully delicious. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the source of the recipe, it was that I didn’t trust the aubergine – which is what Europeans nicely call what is technically a fruit. It was how we referred to it during lunch, and forever more what I will call it.
It really is a marvelous thing, if cooked with some understanding, and some TLC. Very sponge-like in texture, it can easily absorb a lot of oil, turning a potentially exotic ingredient into oil-laden mush. Changing the recipe from using the standard breading procedure of dipping into flour, egg and bread crumbs to oven baking is simple. It’s brilliant. It uses a lot less oil, eliminates a lot of calories and is a much better cooking method to get the true flavour of the aubergine.
If like me, you’ve not had this dish in years, do try this recipe from Martha Stewart. It just might make the aubergine a regular in your kitchen.
Lighter Eggplant Parmesan
Baking the aubergine, making a healthier version of bechamel sauce and using less cheese are some of the updates to this recipe. It can be easily halved, as well as doubled to serve a larger crowd. Truly makes an excellent first course~
1 large eggplant (2 pounds), sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup low fat milk
3 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomato passata
1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 450º with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Arrange eggplant on two rimmed baking sheets, brushing both sides with oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and very tender, 20 to 25 minutes, turning slices and rotating sheets halfway through.
Meanwhile, make sauce: Off heat, in a medium saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup milk, flour & garlic. Gradually whisk in remaining 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until pink sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Alternate layers of baked eggplant with pink sauce. Dollop with remaining 1/4 cup marinara sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan and bake on upper rack until browned and bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes.