The beginning of the Winter Olympics captures the world’s attention in excited anticipation but also provides much food for thought as controversies arise: from post Cold War foreign relations to amazement at the barrage of images of #sochiproblems and consternation about the monumental scale of security issues in our digital world. Always thinking food, it also reminded me that I haven’t posted a recipe for one of my favorite vegetables (that’s actually a fruit) in awhile. I love eggplant, but I know many people don’t share my enthusiasm for this stunning purple nightshade.
I actually thought the last time eggplant made an appearance here was the Olympic Gold Mediterranean Eggplant Rolls with a Greek-style Arrabbiata Sauce during the Summer Olympics of 2012, but a search of my site brought up an Eggplant with Hatch Chiles and Roasted Tomatoes from August, 2013. After four years of blogging, it’s easy to forget all the dishes I’ve cooked and recipes posted, which means my blog is fulfilling one of my original intentions for it – to gather all my favorite recipes in one place to serve as a cookbook for me and for my daughter. I’m proud to say College Girl comes here frequently now that she is living on her own and cooks for herself and her friends 🙂
Eggplant Parmesan is definitely up there on the list of my favorite dishes, but it can be rather time consuming to make and packs a whole lot of fat and calories if made in the traditional way of coating the eggplant slice, frying in oil, and then layering with cheesy mozzarella and parmesan goodness. Over the years, I developed Eggplant Parmesan My Way which calls for baking rather than frying the eggplant slices and using half the cheese – it’s amazing! But, when I saw these Eggplant Parm “boats” on the cover of Bon Appetit’s October 2013 issue, I loved the different presentation and that slicing, salting, and breading wasn’t part of the process. Instead, peeled eggplant halves get “stuffed” with the sauce and cheese. Removing all but a strip of the eggplant’s skin lets the flesh meld with the sauce without falling apart. Brilliant!
Better yet, fresh mozzarella is low in calories and one of the lowest sodium cheeses available so perfectly suited for Don’s low sodium diet. Making your own sauce also adds to the fresh appeal and overall healthiness of this recipe by eliminating the excessive amounts of sodium that are in most prepared sauces. To save time, use a prepared sauce but try to find one that is reduced sodium (Trader Joe’s carries an organic Marinara sauce with zero sodium that I use often).
I also reduced the amount of sodium, which isn’t excessive to begin with, by substituting LoSalt* and reducing the amount of cheese a bit. Switching to LoSalt is one way to reduce sodium consumption – you use the same amount as regular salt and get 66 percent less sodium without compromising flavor.
- 2 medium-sized or 3 small eggplants (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- ¼ cup olive oil + 1 additional tablespoon, divided use
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- 1 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about ¼ cup)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce can No Salt peeled, chopped tomatoes*
- LoSalt, freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, remove skin from rounded side of each eggplant half, leaving a 1" strip of skin around the cut edges. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with ¼ cup of olive oil. Place eggplant halves, whole garlic cloves and oregano sprigs on a rimmed baking sheet. Turn eggplant to coat with oil, season with Lo-Salt and pepper and place cut side down. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake until eggplants are very soft (40-45 minutes).
- While the eggplant is baking, prepare the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. 4-6 minutes. Add chopped garlic and chile flakes, stir and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste, cook until beginning to darken, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and add about ¼ teaspoon of LoSalt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat and continue to cook until slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set sauce aside.
- Toss panko bread crumbs with paprika and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Transfer eggplant, oregano and garlic to a large baking dish. Place eggplant cut side up, top with tomato sauce and mozzarella, then sprinkle with panko crumbs and Parmesan. Bake until mozzarella is bubbling and panko crumbs are golden, 25-30 minutes.
Have a great week and watch more excitement and amazing athletic feats unfold at the Olympics! Did you see USA’s Kostenburg with the first gold in slopestyle yesterday?!!
For more Meatless Monday recipes, click on She’s Cookin’ Recipes in the navigation bar or visit Meatless Monday’s website to find out what the campaign is all about.
*Launched in 1982, LoSalt is sold worldwide and in more than 4,500 U.S. stores. It is not chemically engineered and it does not use flavor enhancers. It is the only widely available Kosher (Parev/Passover) certified reduced sodium salt. It is also Halal suitable and allergen-free.
Disclosure: I use LoSalt and find it tastes better than other salt substitutes that we’ve tried. I did not receive compensation for writing this post or plugging their product.