Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pat's Eggplant Lasagne

Eggplant-it's one of those vegetables that looks so beautiful with its glossy coat and stout form, but is so intimidating to so many market shoppers. What to do with it once you get it home? One of my favorite recipes comes from my mother- in- law who substituted 1/2 inch think length wise slices of eggplant for lasagna noodles. Perhaps she originally tried this noodle free dish to benefit a member of our family with a gluten allergy, but the end result is delicious enough to convince even the most eggplant shy that this late summer gem is one valuable vegetable.

(Note: I goofed here and cut the slices width wise..still works fine)

Like just about any eggplant dish your very first step is to prepare the eggplant. Cut off the top. Peel the skin. Cut the eggplant long ways in to about 1/2 inch slices, cutting across the full width of the eggplant. Lay the eggplant out on a large platter or a couple of plates in a single layer. Liberally salt the eggplant slices and allow them to sit in their salted state for about 1 hour. This water removing process is key! After that, quickly rinse each slice and lay them out on a flour sack towel to pat dry.

Pre-heat oven to 350

For 4-6 servings will need:

1 large eggplant (I have never used the long slender oriental eggplants for this dish, but imagine they would work perfectly. I am guessing you would need 2 large of this long straight form.)

about 9 ounces ricotta cheese

1 standard size ball of fresh mozzarella sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1/2-1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper (remember your eggplant will likely still be rather salty from the above process so you may want to leave out the salt until you've tasted the fully completed dish)

For the Sauce:

1Small can of tomato sauce or make your own sauce with...
1 Quart canned tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. olive oil
Fish the tomatoes out of the quart jar (setting aside the liquid) and put them in a food processor until you have a puree'. In a medium sauce pan on medium-low heat heat the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and the crushed red pepper flakes. The second the garlic starts to sizzle (in under 30 seconds) add your pureed tomatoes, most to all of your tomato paste, and a little salt. Turn the temperature down and let the sauce simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I leave the pot lid on the pot but slightly ajar while the sauce cooks to avoid sauce splatter all over the stove top. The left over juice from your quart of tomatoes is just in case you let it go a bit to long and it becomes too thick. If you only make the 4-6 servings of lasagna you will have extra sauce left over.
Once you have your eggplant salted and your sauce on the stove, you can start mixing your Ricotta cheese mixture. As usually I am not a big fan of measuring while I cook, but I am guessing that you will need about 9 ounces of ricotta (half of a 18oz container). In a medium mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 1 egg, all the parsley, and fresh ground pepper.

I use a 2-1/2 quart Pyrex baking dish with a lid. Start off by covering the bottom of the baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Then lay down a single layer of eggplant slices, covering the bottom of the dish. Next use a spoon too spread a layer of your ricotta mixture over the eggplant slices. Spoon another thin layer of sauce over the ricotta. At some point in the middle I add just a few slices of mozzarella. Keep layering until your last layer of eggplant. Here you skip the ricotta and do just a light layer of sauce topped off with a full layer of mozzarella slices.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Leave dish covered until the last 2o minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 2o minutes before serving.
As a bonus, I have found that this dish freezes really well so I always make a lot a once (perhaps double this recipe). Once the lasagna has cooled completely, overnight in the fridge works best but isn't necessary, I cut it up into single serving sizes, wrap each serving in a layering of wax paper and aluminum foil and put several of these in a large freezer bag. For months after I can easily remove and thaw a serving whenever I need a night off from cooking.

1 comment: