A Healthier Alternative to Something We Love

I had a GNO (girls night out) the other night and David stayed home. As you can imagine, we both enjoy these occasions—I get to laugh and hang with the girls, while he gets to cook something that he likes to eat. I mean, I readily admit to being a very particular foodie...I don't eat fowl, beef, game, lamb, and the list goes on...which can make cooking something we will both eat and enjoy challenging. He's not that into a vegetarian diet.

So when I go out, David looks forward to being able to cook something that only he likes! Sometimes it's lamp chops or a grilled half-a-chicken, but on this night Chicken Marsala was his choice...chicken sauteed with mushrooms and a white wine-butter sauce (we tend to use mostly Smart Balance in something like this, with EVOO and just a dab of butta').

Because he had a leftover, uncooked chicken breast, he suggested I make eggplant Parmigiana last night so he could have chicken parm and I could have eggplant parm...what a deal!

We love, love, love Italian food. It's really one of our favorites, but when you order eggplant Parmigiana in a restaurant, it is invariably covered in breadcrumbs making the eggplant nearly indiscernable, deep-fried in loads of oil and laden with fat. None of which adds up to a healthy meal.

Clearly, the concept of a seemingly healthy eggplant parm deludes most restauranteurs and chefs. But, rather than live without it, I have created a way of preparing eggplant parm that is healthier than most and yummy—the best of both worlds! You'll never know what you're missing...but you'll be glad you missed out on the heartburn.

Buen provecho!

Heather's Eggplant Parmigiana

(Print recipe)

Serves 4


2 medium sized eggplants, sliced in 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces
Salt, for eggplants
1/4 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, in water, sliced
Fresh basil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or a good jarred sauce like Rao's or Mario Batali's
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. (or more) cracked chile pepper flakes
Fresh grated or shaved parmesan cheese

Rinse eggplants well and pat dry. Slice the eggplant in 1/4 to 1/2 pieces—either the long way or to make round slices. Be sure to cut the slices even so that the cooking time is the same. Get a colander out and place it in the sink. Take a slice of eggplant, sprinkle it generously with salt and lay vertically in the colander. Do this with every piece of eggplant. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour, if possible. You will notice that the salt has drawn out some juice from the eggplant...generally, this removes any bitterness that the eggplant may have.

Preheat broiler and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Rinse each slice of eggplant, blot dry and place on cookie sheet.

Pour 1/4 cup EVOO in a bowl and, with a pastry brush, brush each slice of eggplant with the oil. Place cookie sheet in second rack under broiler and watch carefully...this should take up to 10-12 minutes. You want the eggplant to get toasty in color (see picture below). When it does, remove cookie sheet from oven and carefully flip each piece of eggplant over, brushing the other side with oil. Place under broiler and allow the eggplant to sear again, but cooking it only about 5 minutes this time.

While eggplant is in final stages of cooking, get an oblong baking dish (about 9") and place 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom.
When it is ready, remove eggplant from oven and put oven at 375 degrees. Using tongs, place a eggplant on top of the tomato sauce until the bottom of the dish is covered with eggplant. Sprinkle each eggplant slice with a little salt, place a spoonful of sauce, a piece of fresh basil and then a slice of fresh mozzarella.

Spoon some more sauce over each piece and begin another layer. However, this time, turn the eggplant in the opposite direction. Again, top each piece of eggplant with a little salt, sauce, piece of basil, fresh slice of mozzarella and more sauce.

Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. cracked chili pepper flakes over the top, cover with aluminum foil and place in 375 degree oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and turn on the broiler. Allow cheese to get super bubbly and crispy...this is the best part!

Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. This will allow the juices to thicken a bit and everything to come together. Cut, serve, sprinkle generously with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan and more cracked chile peppers and enjoy!!

Note: If there are any leftovers, David suggests you make an eggplant parmesan sandwich—using a seeded baguette from Whole Foods, that is, if you live in San Antonio, Texas; but if you live somewhere where there is a great bakery, get a nice French or Italian loaf...the crusty kind!
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