Eggplant: Love It or Leave It?
Which eggplant camp are you in? I love eggplant, but I know many people don’t share my enthusiasm for this stunning purple nightshade. Most objections to eggplant are usually about texture or bitterness. But when eggplant is treated right, it’s creamy and earthy—a superstar in dips as well as roasted and grilled dishes. See if you are making some common mistakes when you prepare eggplant that might be turning you against the nutrient-dense aubergine (French for eggplant).
A Lighter, Healthier Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Parmesan is up there on the list of my favorite dishes. However, it can be rather time-consuming to make and packs a whole lot of fat and calories when made in the traditional way of flouring the eggplant slices, frying them in oil, and then layered with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. 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 incredible!
When I saw 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 well suited for Don’s low sodium diet. Making homemade 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 by substituting LoSalt* and reducing the amount of cheese a bit. Switching to LoSalt is one way to reduce your overall sodium consumption — using the same amount as regular salt results in 66 percent less sodium without compromising flavor.
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
- 2 medium-sized or 3 small eggplants about 2 pounds, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 additional tablespoon divided use
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella torn into pieces
- 1 ounce Parmesan finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/8 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 1/4 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 1/4 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.
Adapted from from Bon Appetit magazine, October 2103. Recipe was cut in half and made lower sodium by substituting LoSalt, panko bread crumbs, and less cheese.
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*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. No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are my own.
Edited August 25, 2019 for better SEO and clarity.