I can credit my mother for first introducing me to eggplant. She most often served it fried, but she also had a recipe that “even eggplant haters will love”, as she was fond of saying. I dug out her recipe today and I could see why everyone loved it. With a pound of ground beef, a fresh tomato sauce and gobs of mozzarella cheese, what’s not to love?
Even though it was yummy, I confess I haven’t made mom’s eggplant casserole in years. These days it sounds a bit heavy for my tastes, what with all that meat and cheese. A couple of years ago I came up with my own eggplant casserole that’s a lot lighter, but just as tasty. My wife and I both love it, and I fix it often when the eggplant is plentiful in our garden.
Grilling eggplant is one of my favorite ways to cook it. In this meatless main dish casserole, grilled eggplant is layered with cheese and a tomato and mushroom sauce and then baked. The leftovers are good frozen – if you have any leftovers!
2 lbs peeled eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices )
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
15 oz tomato sauce, no salt added
1 cup tomato, chopped
6 oz cheese, mozzarella, low fat
1/2 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1. Peel and slice eggplants right before grilling (skin can be left on if tender).
2. Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan until hot.
3. Brush eggplant slices with 1 tbsp olive oil.
4. Arrange the eggplant slices on grill; cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
5. Preheat oven to 375°.
6. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add 1 tbsp olive oil, onion, salt, garlic and mushrooms. Cover and cook 6-7 minutes or until tender, stirring mixture occasionally. Reduce heat to low, add basil, oregano, tomato sauce and tomatoes and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
7. Coat 13″x9″ (3 quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of eggplant slices in bottom of dish. Top with half of tomato/mushroom mixture, and half of mozzarella cheese. Add remaining eggplant slices and top with remaining tomato mixture. Cover and bake at 375 for one hour. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.