Friday, September 18, 2009

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Remember that cookbook I told everyone to go buy? Well, here's something else from it, and as usual, it was GOOD. So good I can't believe they cut the calories from 760 in the original recipe to 330 in this one, and the fat from 59g to 9 g (13g saturated vs 4g saturated). I actually liked this BETTER than fried versions because it didn't taste greasy.

So seriously, people, go buy this book! I can give you the recipe here, but the book has the "story" of the recipe, including what they tried that failed and how they got to the final "best" light recipe. Sometimes the way to get there is rather labor intensive, but often it's not (or not in comparison with the original recipes). I'd say this is easier than traditional eggplant parmesan, because you don't have to fry anything. It's not, however, something I'd try to cook when I'm at home with the kids by myself--you do need some time without a "human leg warmer" to get this one together.

2 medium globe eggplants (1 lb each), ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
ground black pepper
3 large egg whites
1 Tbsp water
vegetable oil spray
8 oz reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp minced fresh basil leaves

Tomato Sauce* (they give a recipe, but I used a jar of tomato basil sauce from Safeway)

1. Salt the eggplant: Toss half the eggplant with 1 tsp kosher salt, then place in a large colander set over a bowl. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and 1 more tsp kosher salt, and transfer to the colander with the first batch. Let sit until the eggplant releases about 2 Tbsp liquid, 30-40 minutes. I recently read a blog that said it also helps to put some weight on top of the eggplant, traditionally a plate and stone, but a better suggestion was a ziplock bag filled with water. The recipe says that after the 30-40 minutes, you should spread the eggplant onto a triple thickness of paper towels, cover with another triple thickness of paper towels, and press firmly to remove as much liquid as possible, and then to brush the salt off. I, however, just picked up each piece and kind of shook off the salt, mainly because I had moved on to a different part of the recipe and apparently didn't go back and notice that part. I thought mine tasted fine, but maybe it wasn't very "soggy" eggplant to begin with?

2. During the time you're waiting for the eggplant to release liquid, combine the breadcrumbs and oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden (about 10 minutes). Spread the breadcrumbs into a shallow dish and let cool slightly.

At this point, adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and preheat the oven to 475.

Then add the 1/2 cup Parmesan to the cooled breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Combine the flour, garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a second shallow dish. In a 3rd shallow dish (or a bowl), whisk the egg whites and water together. Make a little assembly line of flour, egg whites, panko, foil-covered baking sheet (with edges--I needed 2).

Season the eggplant with pepper. Then dip ONE SIDE ONLY of each eggplant slice in the flour, shake to remove excess, then in the egg, then in the panko, pressing firmly to make sure the breadcrumbs "stick." Place, crumb side up, onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with each slice of eggplant. Spray the top of the eggplant slices with vegetable oil spray. Bake at 475 until the top of the slices are crisp and golden, about 30 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

3. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer in half the eggplant slices, breaded side up, overlapping the slices to fit if necessary. Distribute 1/2 cup of the sauce over the eggplant, sprinkle with half the mozzarella (about 1 cup). Layer on the remaining eggplant, breaded side up, and dot with 1 cup of the sauce (just put a spoonful on top of each piece), leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so it will reamain crisp). Sprinkle with the reamining mozzarella and bake until bubbling and the cheese is browned, about 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then sprking with the basil and serve, passing any remaining sauce and extra Parmesan seperately (although I didn't add any--mine was good as it was).

I also didn't use shredded mozzarella, because I had a ball of fresh mozzarella I needed to use, so I just sliced it and put it on top of the eggplant. I'm sure this made my final product higher in fat and calories, but I don't think it's what made the recipe so good. It was the crisp texture and deliciousness of the breading combined with the sauce that I really loved, and I actually may have used less cheese with the fresh mozz. than if I'd used shredded. I didn't have fresh basil, either, so I left that out.

I LOVED this. The Big Geek ate it and didn't complain, which is good considering his preference for meat. The little geek said, "is this pizza?" so I told her it sort-of was, and she ate 1 1/2 servings before saying, "I don't like this pizza."

Really, because you sure ate a lot of it before reaching that conclusion. . .

This book also has a chicken parmesan recipe, which I'll try in the near future. I hear it's FABulous.

*Sauce: 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes, 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 4 tsp), 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp EVOO, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves, salt and ground black pepper. Process the tomatoes with their juices in a food processor until mostly smooth (15-20 1-second pulses), set aside. Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, and pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 min. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and cok until the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until needed. This can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge. I think this will make more sauce than you need, so you can serve it on pasta the next day.

1 comment:

  1. Eggplant is probably one of my favorite veggies, so I'm looking forward to trying this despite the fact that I'm not the best at the whole salting-the-eggplant thing. Will have to be brave & try it soon!