Friday, August 29, 2008

Baked Eggplant with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce: An Acceptance Speech

My fellow Americans,

It is with great pride and a few extra green peppers that I, Cooking Light’s Baked Eggplant with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce, accept your nomination for Best-Ever Eggplant Dish on CHG.

Yes, the contest has been mighty. Baba Ghanouj, Ratatouille, Roasted Eggplant Spread, Broiled Eggplant Japonaise, Eggplant Mini-Pizzas, Angel Hair Pasta with Eggplant-Tomato Sauce, and of course, Cheesy Eggplant Bake … you’ve been noble, wonderful competitors, and I salute your staying power.

But … was it ever really in doubt?

My thick, hearty substance …

My deep, rich flavors …

My truly welcomed hint of cheesiness at the end…

These are qualities – AMERICAN qualities – that must be gained through learning, effort, and an hour in the oven.

There were changes, yes. I won’t deny that. My supporters suggested adding red pepper flakes, a cup of chopped green pepper, and ridding the eggplant of its initial bitterness. I reflected on these ideas, and then accepted them. In the end, they didn’t make me weak or flip-floppy. No – the alterations only made me MORE DELICIOUS. And isn’t that what you want in a leader?

Some may criticize my newness, or my smaller portion sizes, which might only feed three people instead of four. To that, I say we MUST re-adjust our conception of what constitutes a normal serving. Or, for those unwilling to change, perhaps SERVE ME WITH BREAD OR PASTA. It’s that simple. Do you think the other dishes would suggest such maverick ideas? I think not.

Ultimately, I am a dish of change, my friends. Change and hope. By eating me, you are no longer bound to heavy, messy, fat-saturated globs of rancid eggplant parmesan. Nor are you subjugate to the oppression of thin, tasteless substitutes. I am the perfect combination of ferocious vegetable nutrition and monumental culinary triumph.

And with that, I turn this convention over to the weekend.

Good night and godspeed.

Baked Eggplant with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 peeled eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1 1/4 pounds)
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (8-ounce) mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce, divided
2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1) Salt eggplant slices and place in colander on top of a plate. After 30 minutes, rinse eggplant thoroughly and pat down with paper towels.

2) Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.

3) Lay eggplant out on the sheet. Broil 8 minutes, flipping once, until both sides are a little brown.

4) Turn oven to 375°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart baking dish (round if possible) with cooking spray.

5) In a large nonstick pan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, garlic, and mushrooms. Cover. Saute 7 or 8 minutes, until soft, lifting cover to stir occasionally. Jack heat up to medium-high. Take cover off. Cook a few more minutes (not more than 4 or 5) "until liquid evaporates."

6) Pour 1/2 mushroom/onion mixture into baking dish. Place 1/2 of the eggplant in a layer on top of that. "Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon pepper." Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese.  Repeat layers, leaving off the mozzarella at the end. Cover (with tin foil or dish lid) and bake 60 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella and all the parmesan. Bake 5 minutes. Cheese should melt. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
178 calories, 6.7 g fat, $1.66

1 peeled eggplant: $1.24
Cooking spray: $0.02
1 teaspoon olive oil: $0.04
1 cup chopped onion: $0.44
1 cup chopped green pepper: $0.50
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning: $0.02
1/4 teaspoon salt: $0.01
2 garlic cloves, chopped: $0.06
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms: $1.99
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided: $0.01
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce, divided: $0.70
2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided: $0.94
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese: $0.67
TOTAL: $6.64


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