Now, I have to tell you: I love today's meal. I also have to tell you: Some of you will hate it. Really, only about two-thirds of my family like this, which leads me to cook it very rarely. For example, once, my then 4 year old son came to me in the kitchen while I was preparing this and he said, "Mmmm....I always think this looks so yummy....and then I taste it." However, you should know that it takes only 3 ingredients (4 if you want to be fancy), it makes your house smell insanely good, and even the neighbors who walk by and smell the aroma wafting through your windows will ask what you are having for dinner. So.good.
This, my friends, is the simplest, healthiest, yummiest Eggplant Parmasean ever.
(and half of my readers just left!)
Before you give up too, let me give you some interesting facts (thank you, Wikipedia!) about the eggplant that might intrigue you enough to try it for supper this week. First, did you know that the eggplant is a relative of the tomato and potato, and is also a relative of the (wait for it) tobacco plant? (Scandalous! We all have a crazy Uncle or two in our family roots!) Because of the relationship to tobacco, the eggplant was long-thought to be a dangerous plant to be avoided! (but don't tell your kids that, lest they use that against you!) :-) In fact, there is nicotine in Eggplant....mind you, you'd need to eat 20 pounds of it to equal the amount of nicotine in one cigarette! On the positive side, Eggplant is, however, also rich in folic acid and potassium, which is good if you are pregnant, and is a free-radical-production blocker, which is good if you are looking to avoid cancer. Plus, IT IS YUMMY!
It is called "eggplant" because the first fruits discovered by the European explorers were white and goose-egg sized. It is considered a "berry" due to the seeds inside the fruit.
Now, some people will say that eggplant is bitter. It can be. But from my experience it only ever is bitter if it is an older fruit. If you buy one from the store (or better, pick one from your garden), and then cook it within a day or two, you will find that the eggplant is smooth and mild, and yet rich tasting all at once. If you do have an older fruit, or one that you aren't sure how long it has been shipped and stored at the grocery store, remove the bitterness by sprinkling the sliced eggplant with salt, letting it sit for 15 minutes, and then rinsing with cold water. This is called "degorging" apparently. Who knew? Problem solved!
Without further ado: Eggplant Parmasean
You need: (for a 9x13 pan)
2 medium sized Eggplant, sliced lengthwise, and degorged if desired. (do not peel, but do cut off the stem)
1-2 jars/cans pasta sauce, any flavour (homemade or store-bought). Personally, I like roasted garlic, or arrabbiata sauce. Use more or less sauce depending on how saucy you want it to be when you serve it.
Parmasean Cheese (to taste...lots of it!)
(and if you are being fancy) Grated Old Cheddar
Spread some pasta sauce to cover bottom of pan. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce to fit snuggly on bottom of pan. Cover with a layer of sauce, sprinkle liberally with parmasean and cheddar if using. Repeat layers of eggplant, sauce, parmasean, and cheddar. Bake in 350F oven for 30-45 minutes or until bubbling and hot through, and until the eggplant feels soft when pierced with a knife. Slice into squares to serve. A 9x13 pan could serve 8-10.
Serve on top of spaghetti, if desired, or just with a salad for a light meal.
For a fancier presentation, slice the eggplant crosswise in to rounds instead, and layer individual rounds as above. Serve 1-2 stacks of rounds per person.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think! Tell your kids this is as close to smoking as you are ever going to let them get! ;-)