I can’t remember when I started make this dish, but it was well into my married life. As a child, I didn’t even know what eggplant was. Food options were quite simple fifty years ago (Yikes! That was a long time ago!) Back then, we ate fairly “local.” In the prairies of Canada, where I grew up, mostly only fruit – apples, oranges and bananas; peaches and plums in the summer – were shipped in, and likely head lettuce, too. That’s the only green I recall eating as a kid, except in the summer when my mom grew tender green and red leaf lettuce in her garden. Root vegetables could be stored locally and sold through the winter. The rest … tomatoes, beans, peas, corn … all of these, my mother canned from her summer garden and served in the winter.
I felt very cosmopolitan when I discovered raw spinach or watercress in a salad, pasta (other than elbow macaroni) in a cream sauce … oh, and the first time I ever ate an avocado was at Trader Vic’s restaurant in Vancouver when I was twenty. They served it cut open with a gorgeous red wine vinaigrette ladled into the holes where the pit had been removed. You ate it with a spoon. Amazing!
Eggplant never crossed my food radar until much later, maybe hidden in Greek Moussaka first, and then on to the purer form of Eggplant Parmesan, when I had the courage to order it in an Italian restaurant.
After that, I do recall making a really good eggplant salsa, called “Eggplant Caviar.” Hum, I must track down that recipe and share it with you.
Anyway, I liked the meaty quality of eggplant combined with a nice tomato sauce, but couldn’t get my head wrapped around doing all that breading and oil frying. That’s okay for a restaurant dish but too much cumbersome work for me in my kitchen, especially in those early days of my adult life when I had two small kids, worked full time, etc. So I concocted this recipe, which was fast, easy and my kids thought it tasted like pizza. How could I go wrong?
A side note before I get to the instructions. I’ve read about salting eggplant and letting it sit to remove bitterness. Also, some say to peel it because the skin is tough. But I like all the parts and pieces of this savory vegetable so I don’t mess with it. In my opinion, the skin adds texture; the unique flavor of the eggplant is terrific with tomato sauce and cheese. If you don’t agree, then salt and peel, make your own marinara … take as much time as you need to make this dish what you want it to be.
I’m a fan of the fast, easy and tasty, and mostly that’s what I will share with you because that has been my experience over years of being a working mom, who loves to cook … and eat.
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant, washed and cut crosswise in ½ inch slices
½ cup olive oil
Dashes of garlic powder & onion powder
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
½ lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
Chopped fresh basil
Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet with a light coating of marinara sauce.
Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and dust with garlic and onion powders.
Heat a cast iron grill pan (or any sauté pan), to medium heat; fry eggplant slices, turning only once. When the center of the slice is just slightly soft, remove from pan, and place on the cookie sheet.
Cover eggplant slices liberally with marinara sauce; top with sliced or shredded mozzarella.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, using the oven’s center rack.
Leave on center rack and switch to broil for 5 minutes or less (until cheese bubbles and slightly browns.
Serve with brown rice, or pasta tossed in extra marinara sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
Note: If you have extra marinara, heat it up and serve on the side for those who like more sauce.
So easy, and a yummy “no meat” Monday meal.
Eat well. Be happy.