Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recipe - eggplant parmigiana

This is a delicious recipe that I love to make, it tastes light and fresh and filling and is actually quite easy.  Great if you are trying to cut down your meat consumption, and you can always add a little bacon if you wish for added flavour, but it is positively great without.

You will need:
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
a bunch of fresh basil
6 whole fresh tomatoes
a jar of good quality pasta sauce or if you wish to make your own, more tomatoes & tomato paste
a tub of ricotta cheese
Shaved parmesan cheese
1-2 rashers of bacon (optional)
some dried herbs to taste
a big fresh green salad to serve

You will need to start by preparing your ingredients. Cut the stalk off your eggplant and then slice it lengthways in about 1cm thick slices. Slice three of your tomatoes into slices and dice the other three finely. Pull the basil leaves off the stalks but don't chop them, set the whole lot aside for later.

Next step is to start grilling the eggplant. You can do this in several ways. Firstly, you can pop it under a hot griller, secondly in a flat frypan. But the third option that I think works
best is if you have one of those griddle pans with the ridges. You will need to work in batches. I brush the eggplant slices with a little olive oil, pop them on a hot grill pan, turn them as they brown and set them aside on a plate with a piece of kitchen paper as I work through my slices.

While this is happening, I usually start making my sauce. You have some choices here. If you wish to, you can make the sauce yourself using fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, onions, garlic etc and cook it down to the consistency required. This will take a little longer. Alternatively, if you have a good
quality pasta sauce you are happy with, you can use that here. Always remember to read your labels to check sugar and salt content and any added nasties. I usually take the middle ground - I start with a large bottle of pasta sauce, add the three diced fresh tomatoes, some dried or fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme), a slop of red wine and cook it while the eggplant was grilling. This gives you a fresher flavour, but doesn't take so long. 

If you are planning on using bacon in your parmigiana, trim off the rind and fat, cut into thin strips and pop it on your hot grill pan when the eggplant has finished cooking. 

Now its time for assembly. Preheat your oven to around 200 degrees C now so it will be ready.

Depending on how deep a pot you have you can either make this a low flat stack in a baking dish or pile it high in a smaller casserole type pot. I find the smaller deeper pot works fine and the flavours mix better, but it can look a little messy if you're not careful when serving it up (if that worries you!)

Start by adding a spoonful of sauce to the bottom of your dish, add a layer of eggplant, a layer of sliced fresh tomato, a handful of whole basil leaves and top by adding a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese. If you are using bacon, add your strips of bacon in these layers somewhere.

If you are using a baking dish you may only get one layer, in a deep casserole pot I get two, so I repeat this process - more sauce, then eggplant, tomatoes, basil and ricotta. Top the whole lot with the remaining sauce to cover any ingredients. Top your whole pot with a handful of shaved parmesan cheese, you can also add a little mozzarella if you like it stringy. Avoid the high fat cheeses like cheddar or tasty cheese as they will make everything very oily. I sprinkle with a little paprika for colour before it goes into the hot oven.

As all your ingredients are cooked, it should only take 15 minutes or so in the oven for everything to soften and the cheese to melt. When the topping is golden, remove from the oven and serve immediately with a big fresh green salad, a small glass of red wine and perhaps a little crusty grain bread. Bon appetit!

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

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