Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

This version of Eggplant Parmesan calls for grilling the eggplant rather than breading and frying it, yielding much more flavor without the guilt!

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Because I love eggplant, one of my favorite dishes to order when I'm dining at an Italian restaurant is Eggplant Parmesan. The meaty eggplant and the gooey cheese is simply too tantalizing to resist, and as soon as the food hits the table, I dig into my helping of pure comfort food with enthusiasm and delight.

Of course, this normally translates into me overeating and then utterly regretting that I ordered something with so much breading. When I decided to start making Eggplant Parmesan at home, I vowed to come up with a healthier version so I could indulge in one of my favorite dishes without feeling all of the guilt.

Salted Eggplant Slices | Taste As You Go
Salted Eggplant Slices
  
Since I love what grilling does to the overall flavor of eggplant, I decided that that's the way I'd prepare the eggplant slices for my version of Eggplant Parmesan. Infinitely healthier than breading and frying and a whole lot easier than setting up the three breading stations (i.e., seasoned flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs). No breading stations meant no extra dishes to clean up (or to have Stephen clean up).

Bonus.

Salted Eggplant Slices | Taste As You Go
Salted Eggplant Slices

Before grilling, slice the eggplant and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray. (In the spirit of minimizing clean-up, I lined my baking sheet with aluminum foil first.)

Sprinkle some salt on the slices and let them sit for a bit to draw out some of the moisture. Once ten minutes or so have passed, use a paper towel to pat the slices dry and proceed with the grilling.

Without giving a convoluted explanation that sounds all science-y, just know that less water in the eggplant means there's a better chance of browning during the grilling process. More browning means more flavor, and more flavor means you won't miss the breading whatsoever.

Especially once you see what I do to add a little crunch for texture.

Baking Dish with Tomato Sauce | Taste As You Go
Baking Dish with Tomato Sauce

When you've grilled all your eggplant slices, you're ready to start assembling everything. Start by spooning some tomato sauce into the bottom of a baking dish and spreading it into an even layer. I used jarred marinara sauce here, but feel free to use your favorite tomato, whether it be store-bought or homemade.

Grilled Eggplant | Taste As You Go
Grilled Eggplant

Lay some grilled eggplant slices on top of the sauce. See those lovely brown grill marks?

FLAVOR!

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Next, lay slices of fresh mozzarella on top of the slices of grilled eggplant. I used whole milk mozzarella because it's what I had on hand, but there's no reason why you couldn't use cheese that is part-skim.

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Spoon some sauce on top of the mozzarella and then add another slice of grilled eggplant.

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Is your mouth watering yet?

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Now for more sauce! You can be generous here, as the eggplant will absorb some of it as the dish bakes.

Toasted Panko | Taste As You Go
Toasted Panko

I alluded to a crunchy element to the dish earlier, and now it's time to tell you what it is -- toasted panko breadcrumbs! Heat up some olive oil in a skillet and then add 1/2 cup of panko. Using a rubber spatula, stir the panko until the oil is absorbed and then continue to cook until it turns a beautiful golden brown.

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Top each eggplant stack with a handful of the toasted panko and then bake everything for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has started to melt. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes before serving.

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan | Taste As You Go
Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

Heaven on a plate.

The first time I made Eggplant Parmesan this way, Stephen and I devoured it. He ate three of the eggplant stacks, while two were plenty enough for me. Pair with a small garden salad, and you'll have a real winner on your hands!

What do you think of this healthier version of Eggplant Parmesan? Do you think you'd prefer it over the more traditional breaded version? 

Healthier Eggplant Parmesan
Serves: 2 | Printable Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling on eggplant)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Slice the eggplant into 10 slices. Lay the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the slices with Kosher salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes to release some of the eggplant's natural moisture.
  3. Using a paper towel, pat each eggplant dry.
  4. Heat a large grill pan over medium heat. Drizzle the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill for 3 minutes on each side. Work in batches, if necessary.
  5. Spread some marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x12-inch baking dish. Arrange a single layer of eggplant on top of the sauce.
  6. Slice the fresh mozzarella into 5 slices. Top each eggplant slice with one slice of mozzarella.
  7. Spoon some more marinara sauce onto of each piece of mozzarella and top with another slice of grilled eggplant.
  8. Spoon more sauce onto the eggplant stacks.
  9. Heat the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and stir with a rubber spatula until all of the oil has been absorbed. Continue to toast over medium heat until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
  10. Top each eggplant stack with toasted panko.
  11. Bake the eggplant for 10 minutes, or until the mozzarella has started to melt. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
Recipe by Michelle Rittler | Taste As You Go

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Taste As You Go’s RSS feed or subscribing via email so you don’t miss a thing!