With temperatures dropping if you’re at all like me, you’re craving warm comfort foods. When my day begins with a snow flurry-filled run along the East River, I can’t help but think gooey mozzarella, tangy yet sweet marinara sauce, and silky soft eggplant. Sound familiar? Kind of like eggplant parmesan? Well, you’re right.
Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite homey dishes and I hope this recipe will make it one of yours too. If you’re opposed to eggplant simply because you’ve heard fad diets pin the nightshade family of vegetables to which it belongs as bad for you, think again. Although nightshades have some contraindications for people with IBD, auto-immune disease, or sensitivities/allergies to them, they can enrich a healthy diet for most people.
Eggplant is low in calories and carbs, and high in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. It contains the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is a free-radical scavenger (free radicals cause inflammation and cell damage), and may lower cholesterol. Furthermore, some studies show that eggplant may reduce blood sugar thanks to its fiber and polyphenols (fiber slows digestion and sugar absorption and polyphenols contain an enzyme that could reduce the absorption of sugar).
There are so many ways to enjoy eggplant such as my healthy baked eggplant parmesan recipe below, in caponata, warm on a salad, or Middle-Eastern style stuffed and drizzled with Tahini.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
Finely ground sea salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce (I prefer Rao’s), plus more if needed
3 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into slim rounds, about 1/8 -inch thick
1 tablespoon parmesan, finely grated
1 teaspoon basil, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the eggplant and sauté until soft and golden on both sides (it helps to press the eggplant down with a spatula as it cooks to release the oil). Salt and pepper to taste.
In another small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the marinara sauce (if using canned, cook them down to let liquid evaporate), and heat until simmering. Turn the burner to low and cover to keep warm.
Transfer the cooked eggplant to a Pyrex baking dish, then layer the tomato sauce and mozzarella on top, making a total of three layers, finishing with the mozzarella. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the cheese melts, about 7 minutes. When the cheese bubbles, remove the dish from the oven. Add some more warm marinara sauce, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parmesan if desired, garnish with basil, and serve immediately.