A guest post from Kerri:
Eggplant: From India With Love
My first encounter with the “exotic” eggplant was at Summerfest (you know…that fairly large music festival that takes place on Milwaukee’s lakefront). Two words: Eggplant Fries! When I used to attend the festival quite regularly every summer, my first culinary stop was always at the Venice Club to grab an order of eggplant fries with marinara dipping sauce! Yum! These days I try to enjoy my eggplant, now a frequent star in my weekly meal menu, with a little less deep-frying 😉
The eggplant, a member of the nightshade family and a close relative of the potato and tomato, was originally domesticated in India from wild nightshade and, botanically, is classified as a berry, the seeds of which contain nicotinoid alkaloids (yep…a relative of tobacco…don’t worry…you have to consume 20 pounds of eggplant to consume the equivalent of one cigarette’s worth of tobacco).
The eggplant is called an aubergine in England, a far more descriptive name for this versatile berry/vegetable than our somewhat confusing “eggplant”. So where did this crazy name come from? Apparently, some varieties cultivated in the 18th century resembled goose or hen’s eggs, and now, some of these white and yellow varieties that earned the eggplant it’s unusual moniker are back! I was lucky enough to find a white variety to plant in my garden this year (pictured here with the more common purple variety).
A great recipe reminiscent of those Venice Club eggplant fries I enjoyed way back when (and continue to enjoy in moderation) is the tasty Any Meat Eggplant Lasagna recipe below. This is an excellent lower-carb version of traditional lasagna that will satisfy your comfort food cravings as the temperatures fall this Fall.
Any Meat Eggplant Lasagna
2 T olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil for brushing
2 T water
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs Italian seasoning to taste
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch round slices
1 pound ground meat of your choice (turkey, beef, pork, chicken, soy meat substitute)
48 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 1/2 tsp olive oil on each of two baking sheets.
2. Whisk eggs and water together in a small, shallow bowl
3. Season the panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning to taste (You can also purchase Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs or regular breadcrumbs. I just happened to have unseasoned panko on hand)
4. Mix the parmesan cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a separate small, shallow bowl.
5. Dip eggplant slice in egg mixture and then press into crumb mixture. Tap off excess crumbs and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all slices.
6. Bake eggplant slices at 375 for 40-50 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking to make sure each side is golden brown.
7. Remove eggplant from oven and increase temperature to 400 degrees.
8. Heat remaining 2 T olive oil in skillet and stir in ground meat.
9. Brown meat until crumbly (about 10 minutes) and drain any excess grease.
10. Stir tomato sauce into ground meat.
11. Place 1/3 of the baked eggplant slices on the bottom of an oiled 9 by 13 pan.
12. Pour 1/3 of the tomato meat sauce over the bottom eggplant layer.
13. Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce layer.
14. Repeat steps 11-13 two more times (you should end with a mozzarella cheese layer).
15. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes
16. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
17. Enjoy! (perhaps with a nice glass of red wine ;))