Quickie Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Parmesan is one of those homey Italian dishes, like lasagna, that warms the cockles of your heart. The flavors are pure Italy with a rich tomato-y sauce, garlic, basil and cheeses like mozzarella and fontina. This is a far cry from the spaghetti and meatballs my Mom made back in the day. It’s richer and more flavorful but fast and easy to put together and serve.
There are times when I want the flavors of a dish like this – but don’t necessarily want to sacrifice the labor intensive time or the calories. A busy week night for example. I’ll make the real deal on the weekends when I have more time to go through all the proper steps.
I have a mysterious connection with the flavors of Italy. I’m not Italian. I’m like Julia Roberts in the movie “Eat Pray Love” when she said, “I want to have a relationship with my pizza.” That’s about the only thing I have in common with Ms. Roberts. *wink* Don’t have her gorgeous looks or her money. But I digress.
Real Eggplant Parmesan is time consuming to prepare and like a heart attack on a plate – loaded with oil and fat. I don’t want to take anything away from the original – which is not what this recipe is. It’s sort of a knock off – but it’s still mighty tasty.
One of our favorite restaurants, Grape Street Cafe and Wine Bar serves a killer Eggplant Parm that will knock your socks off. Um, then it will snap your arteries shut. Their Eggplant Parm comes with a side of pasta but I ask them to substitute a green vegetable – and they always oblige. It’s the same dish. But it’s a little change that lowers carbs a bit and adds something green to my plate.
I’m not saying this is an authentic Eggplant Parmesan. Heaven forbid. This quickie, lightened up version is all about the flavors. It still has that rich Italian way about it. It just might inspire you to go even more adventurously Italian next time.
The farther north you travel in Italy the more food is influenced by the tastes of France and Germany depending on what border you travel near. Italy isn’t all about pizza and spaghetti – the cuisine is also about a lot of vegetables and seafood. So, it can be healthy when you do it right. The benefit of this is the eggplant gives you an extra serving of vegetables. Yes, there are some white carbs in the bread crumbs but far less than with a pizza crust or pasta.
Some of the ingredients I get for this dish come from Trader Joes. I’m not sure if they are available at other grocery stores. If you have a Trader Joes in your area it’s definitely worth the trip – at least in my book. Here’s the recipe:
- 2, boxes frozen breaded eggplant slices from Trader Joes
- 1 jar or can, Marinara Sauce (24-25 ounces)
- 1 pound, ground turkey or beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup, shredded cheese, Italian blend
- Optional spices: basil, oregano, garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay out frozen eggplant slices on two baking sheets and bake for 15-18 minutes. While eggplant is baking, brown ground beef or turkey and saute onion. Drain any liquid off the browned meat. Add onion to the pan with the browned meat. Then, add marinara sauce to the meat. Add spices to taste and stir to combine everything. Cook through for an extra five minutes. Note: Some marinara sauces are already well-seasoned and don’t need additional spices. The marinara I use is very simple so when making this dish I always add basil, oregano and garlic powder.
Arrange cooked eggplant slices on a serving platter. Top with the meat sauce. Then top with the grated cheese. Slide the serving platter in the hot oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Serve right away. Makes 4-6 servings.
Serve with a light green salad dressed with vinaigrette.