The finished product - easy, skinny and delicious!
I really love eggplant parmesan. I love chicken parmesan, too. But the classic versions call for deep frying the eggplant or chicken in oil. Many recipes call for lots of grated parmesan. No wonder it's delicious! But my version is pretty tasty, too. But it's not deep fried in oil - my recipe calls for no oil at all. And instead of tons of parmesan there's just a little bit - along with lower fat goat cheese.
Step one: dry your eggplant
The problem with eggplant is that it contains a lot of water. Unless you take steps to draw out the water, your finished product is going to be soggy. I chop my eggplant into half moons a few hours before cooking. I dry them as best I can with paper towels. Then I cover them in coarse sea salt, wrap them in towels and place a heavy object on top, like a large can of tomatoes, to really squeeze out as much moisture as possible. I let them sit in paper towels in a colander for a few hours.
Weighty subject - a large can of San Marzano
Tomotoes helps squeeze out extra moisture
Before drying the eggplant, I partially peel them. This is personal preference: you can take all the skin off, leave it all on, or peel ribbons so you have half and half as I did. Your eggplant looks striped when you're done. I peel about a half inch, leave a half inch, then peel a half inch or so until I'm done.
Grill in batches
Once the eggplant has dried I grill them in batches. If you don't have a George Foreman grill you can just saute them in a frying pan using a non-stick spray. (The George Foreman grill has a non-stick surface so you don't need oil, and you're not supposed to use non-stick cooking spray on them.) Cook them until they start to brown.
Layer in casserole dish
You can make your own marinara or buy it in a jar - just make sure it's a good marinara. I bought a tomato basil marinara at Trader Joe's and it was AWFUL and ruined the dish. That's what I get for using a $2.99 jar of spaghetti sauce! I prefer to make my own, but when I'm in a hurry or feeling lazy, I like Citarella's Spicy Arrabiata sauce. Mario Batali's Cherry Tomato Marinara is also very good. For this version I simply used chopped San Marzano tomatoes from a can - the same can I used to weigh down the paper towels and eggplant! Talk about multi-tasking!
Grilled cherry tomatoes on top
What makes my recipe "skinny" - besides the fact that I don't deep fry the eggplant - is that, for the most part, I use goat cheese in the layering. I make sure the goat cheese is a room temperature, and I dollop spoonfuls among the layers. A little goat cheese goes a long way. I use about 5 teaspoons throughout the casserole. This translates to 102 calories, 75 from fat.
Ready for the oven!
As a final touch I grill cherry tomatoes that have been cut in half and add to the top layer of the eggplant mixture. I don't put the cherry tomatoes throughout as it will make it soggy. About 20 minutes before it's done I grate parmesan cheese on top, increase the oven temperature, and cook until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
This is a dish that gets better with age. In fact, I usually cook it on a Sunday afternoon and have it for dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights. I had no food in the refridgerator during Hurricane Sandy but fortunately had made this eggplant dish on the prior weekend. I had it for dinner for several nights while I waited for the grocery stores in my neighborhood to re-open and re-stock.
1 - 2 medium to large eggplants
Approximately 2 cups homemade marinara or a good store-bought in a jar
5 teaspoons goat cheese
3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3 teaspoons parmesan, grated
Coarse sea salt to taste
Prepare eggplant - I peel 1/2 inch ribbons off, leaving the rest of the skin intact
Slice into rings, then half-moons
Dry with paper towels as best you can
Sprinkle sea salt over the eggplant, wrap in paper towels and place in colander
Put something heavy on top - like a can of tomatoes
Let sit for a few hours
Wipe off excess sea salt from the eggplant
Pour some of the marinara in the casserole dish
Arrange eggplant slices
Dot with the goat cheese (leave the goat cheese on the kitchen counter for the afternoon so it's soft and easy to spread)
Continue until eggplant and goat cheese are used up
Lightly grill or saute tomatoes - they'll cook in the casserole so only grill for a minute or so - don't overcook!
Place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for one hour
Grate the parmesan over the top - increase heat to 450 degrees
Cook until hte parmesan melts and starts to brown - only a few minutes
Let rest and enjoy!