Extravagant Eggplant

Some may say the pairing these two words is oxymoronic.  But, at my house on Tuesday night, the paradigm shifted.  Eggplant was lifted to new heights. 

People shy away from eggplant, probably due to its shape, color or perhaps just out of ignorance.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  If you’ve not tried something, or haven’t had it prepared well, you might just think it’s not good.  Like Brussells sprouts.  Stinky, mushy and sometimes bitter if not prepared correctly.  Sublime when done well.

Consider eggplant a sponge.  It takes on the flavors of the seasonings vegetables cooked with it.  Roast it with wedges of red onion and mushrooms and drizzle with Balsamic Vinaigrette for a wonderful antipasti.  Grilled until soft and served with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, it’s a fabulous bruschetta.  Slice the softball sized eggplants from the farmers’ markets into disks and grill them for a veggie sandwich on a bun.

If your experience with eggplant has left a bitter taste in your mouth, consider peeling away the nearly black, thick skin before roasting.  And, if your experience with Eggplant Parmesan is the deep-fried variety customary on most restarant menus, you’re in for a treat! 

A few pantry staples make this dish come together quickly:  your favorite marinara sauce, a supply of cheeses, and some crostini.  To make crostini from leftover baguette slices, just brush them with a bit of olive oil and toast until crisp.  The layer of crostini in this eggplant dish provides a crunch that will mimic the coating on fried eggplant, but without the deep frying mess and extra fat and calories. 

Of course, you’ll need Mary Dust.  This is a proprietary blend of spices that is sold on my web site and a few places around town.  Pick up a packet or tin at either The Party Mart at Brownsboro Rd and 1-264, or at Gemelli Wines and Spirits in the Chenoweth Plaza next to Doll’s Market.  This is the same expertly blended spice mix that I use when making meatballs and roasting potatoes.  You’ll find plenty of uses for it, even if your spice cabinet is overflowing.  (Ann says try it on popcorn.)

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti w/Basil Cream Sauce

  • 2 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ disks
  • olive oil
  • Mary Dust
  • 2-3 cups good quality marinara sauce*
  • 12-15 crisp crostini
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Spaghetti with Basil Cream Sauce

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet, pour about 2 Tbls of olive oil, and coat the pan in an even layer.  Lay the slices of the eggplant on the pan, then turn them over to get a light coating of the oil on each side of the slices.  Sprinkle the eggplant with Mary Dust.  Roast for 10-12 minutes, then turn the slices over and continue roasting until tender, but not falling apart, about 5-8 minutes longer.  Remove and set aside. 

Put on a pot of water for the pasta.

In a shallow, 2-3 quart baking dish, ladle about a cup of the sauce.  Place a layer of the eggplant slices atop the sauce.  Add another ladle of the sauce. Repeat the eggplant and sauce layers.  Place the crostini on top.  Add yet another layer of the sauce, then the mozzarella cheese in a generous layer.  Top with the shredded Parmesan.  Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil and bake in the oven about 15 minutes.  Remove cover and continue baking until bubbly and brown.  Serve over the spaghetti.

Spaghetti with Basil Cream Sauce

  • 12-16 oz dried spaghetti
  • 2 Tbls prepared basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta al dente.  Drain.  Return the pan to the stove and add the cream and pesto.  Heat to a simmer and return the pasta to the pan.  Heat until thoroughly coated and hot.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve with the eggplant. 

*If you are looking for a simple, inexpensive marinara sauce, pick up two 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes packed in juice and meet me back here tomorrow.



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