Perusing the Kraft Food website one day, I felt inspired by one of their recipes for Eggplant Parmesan. Unlike most recipes for this meatless dish, this recipe doesn’t require breading and frying the eggplant. Chock-a-block with mushrooms and fresh eggplant, it has a rich taste, but isn’t heavy at all.
Every time I make this dish, I marvel at how I could have forgotten how good it tastes.
Much to my surprise, it turns out that eggplant is 1) technically a berry and 2) is a member of the deadly nightshade family! :-o
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a species of nightshade commonly known in British English as aubergine and also known as melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal. It bears a fruit of the same name (commonly either “eggplant” in American, Australian English and sometimes Canadian English, or “aubergine” in British English and Canadian English) that is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to both the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated in India and Bangladesh from the wild nightshade, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum.
The fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids(being a relative of tobacco).
The most time-consuming part of this delicious dish is slicing and “sweating” the eggplant and cleaning and slicing the mushrooms. For ease, I purchase pasta sauce (I’m partial to Hunt’s Garlic and Herb or Hunt’s No-Sugar Added sauces, as neither has the abundance of sugars and fats typically added to commercially available sauces) and doctor it up a bit more with herbs to boost the flavor, but you can use 2 1/2 to 3 cups of your favorite homemade pasta sauce if you prefer.
You can peel the eggplant if you prefer, but I like to leave the skin on. Lightly sprinkling it with salt and letting it rest in a colander, then rinsing or wiping it down before using it in the recipe will help keep your sauce from being runny.
This yummy dish is comforting enough for a family meal but elegant enough to serve to company.
Add a tossed salad, bread, and a glass (or two! ;-) ) of red wine (Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel is absolutely divine with this dish!), and you’ll be so happy to be a person eating purple that you might break out into song! ;-)
Easy and Light Eggplant Parmesan (Serves 4 to 6 as main dish)
- 1 large eggplant (approximately 1 1/4 pounds), sliced
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) fresh mushrooms
- 6 to 8 ounces (1 1/2 to 2 cups) mozzarella (do yourself a favor and shred your own!)
- Approximately 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (Vegetarians: Use a vegetarian Parm or substitute a different cheese)
- Can or jar (24 to 28 ounces) of your favorite pasta sauce (I like to add some additional seasonings to boost the flavor)
1. Slice eggplant. Lightly salt and layer in colander to drain.
2. Gently clean and slice mushrooms.
3. If desired, boost the flavor of your pasta sauce with some additional (I like to add in some basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce — vegetarians, leave out the Worcestershire).
4. Lightly oil or spray 13″x9″ pan with cooking spray. Wipe and/or rinse and wipe dry the eggplant slices. Layer approximately half or just over half of the eggplant slices and about half of the sliced mushrooms in the dish. I like to try and cover the bottom of the pan as well as I can with the eggplant slices, so you may use a bit more than half of the eggplant.
5. Sprinkle with approximately 1/3 of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Top with remaining eggplant and mushrooms. Sprinkle with about half of the remaining cheeses.
6. Pour pasta sauce over all.
7. Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a sheet of aluminum foil and tightly cover dish. Bake at 400F for 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbly and eggplant is softened. (I typically don’t preheat my oven for this dish and just bake it for 45 minutes instead of 35.)
8. Remove from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Return to oven until cheese is melted, about 5 or 10 minutes (I usually just turn the oven off and let the residual heat do the job). Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
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