The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show last month in Orlando offered little in healthy food trends but pasteurized eggs, gluten-free cookies, and bamboo disposable containers filled my show souvenir bag. The show stopper was a platter of potato chips with blue cheese and balsamic glaze designated as an appetizer. At first glance it looked like potato chips drizzled with chocolate syrup!
Cheese ranked supreme at the show. That fact, combined with the interest in all things gluten-free, got me thinking about eggplant lasagna, in which the vegetable takes the place of pasta.
Eggplants — also known as aubergines — come in various colors and shapes and sizes, but they all have lots of potassium and calcium not found in pasta. Plus, eggplant (provided you don’t deep-fry it) is low-calorie so those watching their waistlines can enjoy lasagna without guilt.
Eggplants hail from India and China but became very popular throughout Europe and Africa by the 17th century. They are cultivated around the world and used in a variety of dishes like Malaysian or Thai curries, Balkan moussaka, and Italian Melanzane alla Parmigiani (aubergine baked with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese).
The internet is full of health claims for eggplants. Chinese medicine promotes eggplant for blood disorders. Those sensitive to vegetables in the nightshade family — potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant may want to use a pasta noodle instead of the eggplant slices in the recipe.
Here is my favorite way to make eggplant lasagna. It is gluten-free and low calorie. The big difference between this and most recipes is that pesto is used instead of a tomato sauce. The lasagna can be made with ground beef or turkey (1 pound sauteed, then sprinkled on the eggplant slices) or without.
Eggplant Lasagna1 pound eggplant 2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil (enough to lightly coat each eggplant slice) 1/4 cup prepared basil pesto or fresh (recipe below) 8 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into slices 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil. Place in skillet and heat over medium heat until soft. Remove from skillet and place in oiled 9-inch square baking dish. Spread on pesto sauce. Cover with Mozzarella cheese slices. Add red pepper slices. Repeat layering with eggplant slices, pesto sauce and red pepper slices. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350 degree preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted. Serves 4.
Nutrition information per serving: 397 calories, 18 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 207 mg sodium, 549 mg potassium
Pesto1 cup packed fresh basil leaves 1 clove garlic 2 Tbsp. pine nuts 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. May be refrigerated or frozen. Makes 1/4 cup.