Friday, September 21, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan + Low-carb notes

Revised August 23, 2015
Email subscribers, please click on the blog title to get to the website where photos look better and text is easier to read. 
Most everything you need for eggplant Parmesan is right here. Jalapenos optional.
This time of year all our dinners look the same—red and green—mostly red. That's because of tomato bounty, tomato beauty, and so many greens and eggplants and onions and garlic and basil and on and on. Truly an embarrassment of dishes/riches from kitchen bitches. Of which I am apparently one. I'm a little bossy about diet and cooking. An eggplant Parmesan recipe follows, pictures first. This year I have had to beg or buy eggplants as we had a mysterious eggplant crop failure.
I published an earlier eggplant Parmesan recipe that included this step: slice and salt the eggplant. Let drain then rinse and dry before proceeding. The next time I opined about how to make it, I said this:
Eggplant Parmesan is so much easier when you skip the salting-the-sliced-eggplant-then-rinsing-and-drying steps and also the dredging-in- flour-or-crumbs part. I omitted the flour/crumbs step because of my carb-avoidance behavior, but discovered that dipping the slices in a beaten egg and frying in olive oil is just as good, if not better, than the carb-dredging routine. Oh joy! I left out the salting part when I was in a big rush and discovered THAT doesn't matter either. So right there you lop off another 15 or 20 minutes.
I am sticking with the no-salting method. Anything that saves prep time is good, especially when you can't tell the difference with the finished product. 
Most eggplant Parmesan recipes direct you to dredge  the eggplant in a seasoned flour mixture before frying or baking. No, no, no. Not at all necessary. Some suggest you bake the eggplant after dredging in flour mix, ostensibly to save you from fat. No, no, no. No need to be saved from olive oil! The need to be saved from flour is, however, compelling.
Layered egg-batter fried eggplant. Full recipe below.
This is the deluxe eggplant Parmesan, which means I needed to use sweet onions and peppers, which are undulating toward the kitchen from our crazy pumped- up garden. A very aggressive garden indeed. Onions and peppers are optional.
More layering. Did we talk about the homemade marinara sauce?  Only if you have time and tomatoes to spare.

Eggplant Parmesan

Let's make some assumptions. You have fresh tomatoes and nice firm glossy eggplants. You have time. (The biggest assumption of all.) But listen. If you don't have time to make your own marinara from fresh tomatoes, but still want to make a fabulous eggplant Parmesan, buy a good marinara sauce and pump it up with garlic, a little pesto, some pepper flakes, and your desire to make yourself and others glow at the dinner table.

Do what you can do. Good cheese helps no matter what.

This makes enough for 6-8 servings in a 9X13 inch pan. It freezes well, and keeps for several days refrigerated.

2-3 medium to large fresh eggplants
1.5 to 2 quarts marinara sauce, more or less, homemade preferable
8 - 10 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
12-16 ounces shredded mozzarella, jack, cheddar cheeses, mixed
salt and pepper to taste
salt for treating eggplant slices
2-3 medium eggs
2-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced sweet red pepper or jalapeno pepper or combination—deluxe version  
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion—deluxe version.
1. Slice the eggplants into 1/2 - 3/4  inch rounds.

2. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. In the meantime, heat half the olive oil  over medium heat in a non-stick pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, coat the eggplant slices in beaten eggs and fry in olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Add more oil as necessary. (May be more than 4 tablespoons.) Set aside fried eggplant slices on a grate to cool. Blot with paper towels, if you're weird about oil. If you have leftover egg, fry quickly, chop, and add to casserole. It's a sin to waste food.

3. When all eggplant slices are fried, spoon a layer of marinara on the bottom of your casserole dish. Add a layer of eggplant, sprinkle with cheeses.

4. If you're using sliced sweet onions and/or peppers, spread some atop the cheeses
5. Add another layer of eggplant topped by more "deluxe" items, if using, then cover with marinara.

If you have leftover eggplant slices, place a piece of waxed paper between slices and freeze for later use. 

Pop uncovered into preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 35 - 45
minutes, or whenever sauce is bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven and apply the final layer of mixed cheeses plus a few fresh pepper/onions, if you like.  Return to oven and turn off the heat. Allow the cheese to melt for five to seven minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Low-carb notes
Eggplant is low-carb to the max. One medium unpeeled eggplant has about 13 grams of carbs plus 19 grams of fiber. Which, with fiber grams subtracted, is a minus-carb count.

Peppers are also very low in carbs, but onions are not, and fresh tomatoes, depending upon sugar content, may be high in carbs. However, they also have a lot of fiber, especially if you follow my directions for using the entire tomato, skins included, to make homemade marinara.

Do you know about subtracting the fiber content from carb content to figure out how many carbs you're consuming? Example: a half cup of chopped raw tomato has 4.2 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. Subtract the fiber gram and you get carb 3.2 grams. (The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer)

People who are serious about losing weight with low-carb diets count every carb and most try to keep their carb consumption at 30 per day or fewer. That's roughly the equivalent of two thin slices of bread, One large baked potato with skin has about 50 carbs and just 4.8 grams fiber. You could run on that thing for two days! Except that after eating that many unbuffered-by-fiber carbs, you're likely to feel hungry a couple hours after eating.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BLT into BBT - Sandwiches without bread

I gotta admit, I seriously miss bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. No bread? No wheat? No BLTs!
Damn. I'm sacrificing here. Whoever said giving up bread/grains would be easy?

But WAIT! Here's a tasty solution—the bacon, basil, cheese and tomato salad, a variation of the popular  Caprese salad which can be tweaked in so many ways. Adding bacon? Well, you decide.

You can't pick it up, but you can relish that bacon/basil/tomato delectability. I guess you could use lettuce instead of basil, but at the expense of flavor. I'll be planting winter crops soon, and have literally hundreds of lettuce volunteers sprouting right now. I'm debating whether to save any. I much prefer spinach, chard, and kale—for BLTs as well as winter salads. For now, though, I prefer tangy basil, while it lasts, on my BBTs.

Note: I've spent a half hour trying to download a photo of the Caprese salad with crispy bacon strips atop. The computer won't do it. Perhaps my Mac is sensitive to the cringing and crying some may experience regarding BACON debauching the iconic Caprese. Whatever. Just imagine how delicious! Delicious. A word is worth a thousand pictures.

In the absence of a bacon-enhanced Caprese, here's a no-bread sandwich made with a huge chard leaf wrapped around sliced cheese, sweet onions, tomatoes, chicken and a bit of deli ham.
Caveat: Best to eat this outside to accommodate the drip factor. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writer's Block de-Construction Project

Writer's block. I have it, thank you very much.

Thanks to those who have inquired about the lack of recent posts. (Few, but much-appreciated, inquiries, by the way.)

Things that contribute to writer's block:
1. Starting a post and thinking it's crap. And I don't know how to fix it.
2. Worrying about kayaking son, at this moment likely pitching camp beside a wild-ride Greenland river, hundreds of miles from civilization but close, probably, to polar bears and with hypothermia hovering.
3. Obligations looming with various nonprofits.
4. Mountains of tomatoes to process. Also peppers, eggplants, onions etc. Then come apples.
5. Looking back on fifty-some blog starts that are mostly outdated.(See below)
6. Thinking my blogged words sink into a sea of too much communication. Anybody out there need more words?
7. Inability, so far, to write meaningfully about my now-ancient (almost 97--year-old) mother. She is always on my mind and in my heart. I guess I'm still processing how I feel about her and the inevitability she represents.
8. Weak character that sometimes leads me to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rather than toil over uncompleted blog posts.
9. Inability to treat blog writing like real work. I wrote for a living and stood (yes, stood) before my computer for several hours a day writing for money. I rarely stand when I write anymore, and blog only in my "spare" time, which is usually after 8 p.m.
10. Adherence to ridiculous expectations that hinder creativity. Any self-respecting list needs 10 points.

Blog posts in draft include:

  • life is but a dream, parts 1 and 2
  • aging and death
  • garden variety volunteers
  • a box of baby teeth
  • low carb on the road
  • smiling for real
  • might as well dance
  • taking on hard stuff....why?
  • old people doing splits
  • pepper Paul picked a peck
  • the 90s - decade of loss
  • no matter your age, you might be old

Wow! So many uplifting topics! Let me know if you see anything of interest.