There’s just something about the eggplant. I don’t know what it is that draws me to it, but I cannot seem to stay away from the delicious, meaty, purple vegetable. I like it prepared pretty much every way: roasted, breaded and fried (or baked), thrown in a food processor with some garlic and spices and turned into a dip; it’s all good to me.
Eggplant and I go way back, and we’ve always gotten along. To this day, my favorite dish that my mom makes is her eggplant parmesan casserole. The way she prepares it is VERY time consuming; she got the recipe from an (Italian) family friend who insisted that the eggplant must be drained for several hours before preparing. The draining sucks out the moisture and some of the natural bitterness. I always knew it was going to be a good night when I would come home to find my mom draining layers of eggplant in between the heaviest books in our house. The drained slices would then be dredged in an eggwash bath and Italian breadcrumbs, fried in oil until golden and crispy, and then baked in a casserole dish with layers of sauce and mozzarella cheese. The result was always perfection.
My great aunt Esther, perhaps the greatest cook in the universe (and I don’t make that statement lightly), also used to cook delicious eggplant dishes. My favorite was her unnamed eggplant dip that made its appearance at nearly every family or holiday dinner. No one really knows the actual recipe (the norm for a lot of Aunt Esther’s recipes—she rarely wrote anything down, and made most of her delicious pastries, dips, soups, etc. from sight. Another post for another day). All we know is that the spread was made with eggplant, a LOT of garlic, and even more olive oil. It was to die for, and it went well with everything.
Neither of these two eggplant recipes are mildly healthy, but I’ve realized that eggplant doesn’t need to be fried or doused in oil to taste good. Behold, two of my recent eggplant obsessions:
Do you live near a Trader Joe’s? Yes? Then go there, preferably right now, and buy this Eggplant Garlic spread. It’s $2, it goes on everything, and it is the closest thing I’ve found to my Aunt Esther’s eggplant dip. The taste is uncanny, meaning it is like a little bit of heaven in your mouth. The first time I tasted it, I may or may not have said that I “wanted to bathe in it.” Dramatic? Only a little. And 1 tbsp only has 30 calories! Say what?!
This beauty was last night’s dinner. Nick (my boyfriend) and I like pizza—a lot. This one could not be simpler or more delicious:
Eggplant and Spinach Pizza
Whole wheat pizza dough (we used Trader Joe’s)
1 large eggplant
Spinach (we used about 3-4 cups)
1 can diced tomatoes (we used garlic and oregano flavored, but plain would be fine)
1/2 can tomato paste
Mozzarella cheese (1-2 cups)
1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Thinly slice eggplant, then lay slices on a cooling rack. Sprinkle eggplant slices liberally with salt. Leave for at least 30 minutes.
3. Once eggplant has drained, rinse slices and pat dry. Spray cookie sheet with non stick cooking spray and lay eggplant slices down. Spray slices with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper. Roast slices in oven for about 10 minutes. Do not let slices burn!
4. In the meantime, saute spinach with garlic until just wilted. Combine diced tomatoes and paste in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste.
5. Roll out dough. Layer with sauce, spinach, eggplant, and cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until dough is cooked and cheese is melted. Enjoy!
This pizza was super simple to put together, surprisingly delicious, and shockingly healthy. Proof that you can have your eggplant and eat it, too.
Happy eating : )