Thursday, May 8, 2008

VtV - Eggplant!!!!

I was uncertain about this one, but I wanted to embrace the spirit of Vindicate the Vegetable. I jumped right in, and found a recipe that didn't involve deep frying anything, and prominently featured eggplant.

I am pretty sure that I've only had eggplant once - in eggplant parm that I was not impressed with. I was left unexcited about ever trying it again. I was afraid of this rubbery, icky purple veggie.

But I'm converted! I absolutely loved this recipe. The only reason I didn't devour every last bit and then lick the dish was that this is an amazingly filling dish! The recipe said that it served 4, and I was having 3 dinner guests. I was a little worried about serving a meatless main dish and having enough, so I also made some basil potatoes. The potatoes were completely unnecessary. We only nibbled the potatoes, but still had half of the eggplant (and more than that of the potatoes) left over. Seriously, this is a filling meat-substitute. I can understand how people use this as a sub in lasagne.
As for the recipe itself (aside from my conversion to eggplant-love), it is definitely a keeper! The goat cheese adds a little more salt than I would normally have (making it again, I'd leave out the rest of the salt to make up for it), but the goat cheese is amazing. It is certainly a large part of the appeal of the dish (although it certainly isn't overpowering).
And the dish smells amazing. I love any dish that starts with sauteing onion and garlic, because guests are certain to get excited about dinner, based purely on the smell. The Italian spices in this and the mint certainly smell amazing together (unexpected, right?!). They do work. I couldn't pick out the mint taste in the finished product, but the spices just seemed... right.
The true test of the recipe - all of my guests begged for the recipe!

Eggplant with tomato-mint sauce and goat cheese
Nonstick olive oil spray
2 1-pound eggplants, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick crosswise rounds
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can Italian-style tomatoes
3-6 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 500°F.

Spray and heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and stir 1 minute.
Add tomatoes with their juices, mint and oregano and simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 3/4 cups, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon, about 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
While sauce is simmering,
Spray 2 large baking sheets with oil spray.
Arrange eggplant rounds on prepared sheets; spray tops with more oil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake 10 minutes.
Turn rounds over and bake until tender and golden, about 10 minutes longer.
Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Spoon half of tomato sauce into shallow 2-quart baking dish.
Arrange eggplant rounds atop sauce, overlapping slightly (mine overlapped more than slightly).
Spoon remaining sauce over.
Sprinkle cheese over.
Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with basil.