Eggplant was not on my grocery list when I ventured out on Friday evening, but when I saw how great it looked at the store, I couldn’t turn it down. It was beautiful with smooth skin in a beautiful shade of purple…it was love at first site. I tried desperately to grow eggplant in my garden last year, I watched as the plant grew larger and larger. Everyday I expected to see a fruit emerge from it’s thick stalk, but to no avail. My husband kept saying it was a weed, but no, I was sure it was not, it looked like an eggplant plant and it was growing where I had planted the eggplant. There was no way it was a weed. Then one day when we were taking a walk, he pointed out to me a large weed growing wildly alongside the road that looked just like my beloved “eggplant.” There was no denying what I had hoped was not true…I had been lovingly cultivating weeds all summer long.
Thankfully my failure to grow an eggplant doesn’t keep me from eating them…thank goodness for the grocery store and farmer’s markets. The name eggplant is a bit deceiving and a little intimidating if you’ve never cooked with it. Eggplant comes in a variety of shapes and colors; purple, white, green, pear shaped, or oblong. The name originated in the Middle Ages in Asia when people would trade a variety of eggplant that was white and shaped like an egg–therefore they called them eggplant. This vegetable is easy to cook with and is a great source of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, B1, and potassium. The high fiber content gives this veggie a low glycemic index, meaning it takes longer to digest and doesn’t spike an insulin rush followed by a crash. So, with my pretty little, fibrous fruit, I headed home to make one of my favorite dishes: Eggplant Lasagna.
I suppose it is not technically lasagna because there are no lasagna noodles involved, but I can’t think of any other name to call it. Oh wait, maybe delicious. It has all of the necessary assets of lasagna: creamy cheeses, flavorful ground beef, and quality marinara with the added bonus of nutritious eggplant, instead of starchy pasta! It’s a win/win for my body and my pallet.
I start by thinly slicing the eggplant, I don’t own a mandolin, but I suppose that would make the job easier. Instead I just use a sharp knife and cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. I roast the eggplant in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, while I brown some ground beef and saute onions and garlic then season with a pinch of oregano, salt and pepper. I prefer to use a mixture of sausage and ground beef, as it adds great flavor, but we’re all out of sausage (tear), so this batch was just ground beef. When the eggplant comes out of the oven, I layer all the ingredients: mozzarella cheese, marinara, cottage cheese, eggplant, and ground beef, finishing with a layer of eggplant followed by cheese. Because the ground beef is still warm and the eggplant is pretty hot, I only have to put the lasagna back into the same hot oven for 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbly.
All together, the process takes about 50 minutes from beginning to end. Based upon my quick search of regular lasagna recipes, those take from 2-3 hours to prepare and I don’t have that kind of time on a weeknight. I think the best part of eggplant lasagna, other than the flavor, is that I am not left passed out on the couch 30 minutes later in a carb coma.
Finally, the recipe.
Eggplant Lasagna (makes 10 pieces)