Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roasted eggplant parmesean

Eggplant parmesean is often my measure of an Italian restaurant. I love it almost as much as I am horrified by its high fat content, which is one of the reasons I never make it. It's just too rich and inviting to have a whole casserole in the house.

But today I had an idea for a less caloric variation that tastes equally indulgent thanks to a layer of roasted tomatoes. The inspiration came from a bag of mixed organic tomatoes that were marked down at the market. I started by trimming and tossing them with kosher salt, a generous sprinkle of oregano and a spritz of olive oil spray. They roasted at 400 degrees until nicely browned, about 40 minutes.

When I scooped them into a shallow bowl to cool, their heady perfume pointed like a cartoon hand to two plump eggplant on the counter. I peeled, diced and salted them and let the chunks sit about 15 minutes in a colander. After rinsing and squeezing dry, I put them back on the roasting pan with 2 big cloves of chopped garlic and about 2 tablespoons olive oil.

About 30 minutes later, after stirring twice to make sure every bit got a chance to brown, it was time to assemble the casserole. After coating the bottom with a light smear of canned pureed tomato, I spooned in about half of the eggplant. Next I layered in the roasted tomatoes, now coarsely chopped, and about half of a 2-cup bag of shredded "Italian blend" cheeses. I spread the rest of the eggplant on top, then the rest of the cheese and a drizzle of tomatoe puree.

Since it was hours until dinner, I covered it with foil and gave it a rest in the refrigerator. It later baked, covered, for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, plus another 10 uncovered until bubbly and golden on top.

The result was gooey and delicious, with the roasted tomatoes providing incredible depth of flavor.

"Umami," declared Tim.

"Gross," declared Graham, who instead had a private bowl of steamed broccoli.

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