One thing we’ve been really good about during Shrink-My-Ass-Month is limiting the number of meals we’ve eaten out. This dedication to in-home dining sort of sucks for the one who’s the cook in the family (and the food shopper in the family), but eating out is just too dangerous. You have very little control at a restaurant; even if you order something that you “think” is healthy, some sneaky chef could be plying your meal with butter, oil, cream. Shifty buggers, those chefs.
Last week when I made The Weekend Grocery Trek from Hades, I noticed that eggplant was on sale. Now normally, I’m not a big eggplant person, because the huge eggplants they sell at most supermarkets can be bitter and have the texture of styrofoam. I’m not very interested in eating styrofoam, thank you very much. But these were lovely, firm, smallish eggplant. I plopped three in my cart and then wondered what the heck I was going to do with them. Does anyone else shop this way?
When I shop, I do have a list, but what I get in the produce and meat departments depends on what looks freshest and what’s on sale. I know people who make strict meal plans for the week and shop accordingly, but I just can’t do it. What if I plan on enchiladas but the avocados are dodgy and the corn tortillas hard as rocks? That would seriously piss me off. To spare myself supermarket rage, I plan a few meals and then just “wing” the rest. It seems foolhardy, but that’s just my way.
As I wandered out of the vegetable aisle, I was immediately drawn to the magic kiosk. Not all supermarkets have the magic kiosk, but our Kroger does. Magic kiosk=Murray’s cheese shop offerings. Murray’s cheese kicks ass. It costs more, but it’s way fresher and way better than anything else hangin’ in the deli case. I took one look at all of that beautiful cheese and thought: Eggplant Parmesan.
But there was one leeeetle problem with that idea. Eggplant parmesan, made the way it’s meant to be made, requires the breading and frying of eggplant. Breading and frying are backside suicide, and eggplant is especially bad because it sucks up oil like a sponge. Seriously. Don’t believe me? Order the Eggplant Parmesan at the Olive Garden. 850 calories later (without crack breadsticks!), drive home and cry in your pillow and beg your ass for forgiveness. It’s going to need it.
Dangit, though! I really was in the mood for it now, with my cheap eggplant and my good cheese winking at me inside my grocery cart. Hmph.
Then I remembered this recipe from many moons ago, and realized that I could grill the eggplant, not fry it. Sure, it wouldn’t be the original thing, but SMAM and “the original thing” can’t be in the same room together. A girl’s gotta improvise during SMAM.
I unloaded my overflowing grocery cart and headed home. Then I tackled the Leaning Tower of Food Rags and every “healthy” cookbook I own. I settled on a version from Cooking Light magazine, but of course, I had to tinker with it. The CL recipe called for homemade tomato sauce. Not happening. Have you seen how expensive tomatoes are right now? And those are the shitty winter tomatoes! Outrage!
I used jarred Muir Glen marinara sauce. Worked fine. As did substituting some fresh mozzarella for the parmesan on top of the rollatini, because my hunk of parm was pathetic. Low on basil? Substitute fresh parsley. Want some kick? Add crushed red pepper. You kind of get where this is going? This recipe is pretty hard to mess up.
It’s also delicious. It satisfied my Eggplant Parmigiana craving without the guilt. Olive Garden, you can kiss my (not expanding) ass.
slightly adapted from Cooking Light magazine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, either homemade or store-bought
12 (1/4-inch thick slices eggplant (about 2 medium)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 ounch whole-wheat French bread, toasted and torn into pieces
8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large egg
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, divided
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup) and divided
If eggplant is a little tough or contains a large number of seeds, salt the eggplant slices well and drain in a colander for about twenty minutes. Rinse eggplant under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat broiler to high.
Sprinkle eggplant slices with a little salt and pepper. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly coat eggplant with cooking spray. Broil eggplant for 4 minutes; turn slices over and broil 4 minutes more or until lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes.
Place garlic cloves in a mini-food processor or blender. Add pine nuts and toasted bread and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add ricotta, lemon zest, red pepper and egg; pulse until smooth. Stir in the chopped parsley and half of the torn basil leaves. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Spread 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce over the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture onto each eggplant slice; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Place rolls, seam-sides down, over sauce in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining Parmigianno-Reggiano. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining basil.
Serve 3 rolls per person for a main dish.