I Swear, I’ve Looked, and There’s Nothing Funny About Eggplant. Really.
I know, lame title. Total cop-out. My bad.
Like Evo Diva has ranted before, I like to vary my meals between bloody steaks and salad greens laced with whole grains and vegetables. 80, my normal dining partner however, still likes to see a cut of meat on his dinner plate. So it took all of my debate team skills to convince him to eat a totally vegetarian dinner.
Oh, and I’m totally lying. I just think it would sound cool if I actually knew how to win an argument by debate skills. I actually spent my after school hours playing field hockey in the fall, lacrosse in the spring and watching my then-boyfriend play video games in the winter.
Anyway, as I pride myself in keeping a well-stocked pantry, on my walk home from work (with 80) I tried to piece together a meal without having to go to the store for anything. And I almost made it. After I decided to make a lasagna, but with eggplant strips instead of noodles (thanks, Vi), the only way I could sell 80 on the idea was to stop by the store so we could cover the whole thing with mozzarella cheese.
Real quick on the eggplant, so I bought it to use for this DC food bloggers potluck. But I was too hung over and just couldn’t get it together, especially after belmontmedina was bailing. Luckily, though, Mr. So Good filled me in on some of the details. I promise to be a better part of the community and attend the next one – headache and all.
Read on for what I guess I could have made if I wasn’t playing flip cup like a 20 year old the night before.
An integral part of the lasagna was 80’s sauce that he made a couple night’s before. I let him describe it:
80 P’s Top Secret Pizza/Pasta/Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Forget everything you’ve ever heard about tomato sauce. Ok, not everything. Actually, don’t really forget anything; just add some adobo flavor. Being obsessed with all things chipotle, when making my first pizza sauce, I had to spice it up a little. So in addition to the diced tomatoes and various normal spices, I added a couple of spoonfuls of adobo sauce, the sauce that comes with chipotle peppers. It has a great smoky, spicy flavor that really brings a kick. But really, I’m lying. I didn’t realize we had tomato paste in the apartment and thought the adobo could thicken up the blended tomatoes as a substitute. It was really just a great discovery that happened by accident.
To make the sauce, I threw the diced tomatoes into the blender and then heated it with garlic salt, pepper, and oregano and adobo sauce for about 15 minutes. Take your time heating the sauce, as you definitely don’t want to burn the bottom (bad taste). If I weren’t an idiot, and knew we did in fact have some tomato paste laying around, I would have added it here, but then we would never know the wonders of adobo in pizza sauce.
When Gansie came home later that night and told me we did in fact have the paste, she added it in to the leftover sauce so it would be ready for its next usage.
The (thinner) sauce was good with the pizza I made, but the (thicker) sauce was great with the eggplant lasagna. We both decided it was essential to how good the lasagna turned out.
So I have no idea why he titled this “top secret” when he knew I’d be sharing it with the world, but anyway – do that for the sauce part of the meal.
Eggplant and Chickpea Lasagna
Okay, to start the layering process slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. Now you know I’m not one to tell a lie – this was kinda a shit show. I thought that if after the first slice I would turn the eggplant slice side down so it would lay flat that it’d be easier to cut, which I guess it was, but it was still pretty hard to maneuver.
After I finished slicing, I salted the strips and then laid them in a colander to try to let some of the inherent liquid drain out. I did this while prepping the other veggies.
On very low heat, sautee diced onions and garlic with extra virgin for, like, a really long time; stir occasionally. And after a bit I thew on some cumin and oregano.
Boxed, frozen spinach is pretty great to have on hand. It can be thrown into so many dishes and is a great addition for filler, color, and nutrition. Well, I think there’s still some nutritional value in the spinach after its been frozen and reheated. But don’t tell me even if there’s not, okay commenters! I still would like to be believe in this magical product.
Before this usage I’ve tried tons of ways to defrost the spinach. Clearly I’m an asshole because I never read the simple directions stated on the box: boil 1/2 cup of water, drop in spinach, bring back to a boil, cover for 5-7 minutes, drain. Although I still haven’t figured out how to get all of the moisture out of the greens.
Meanwhile, dice up roasted red peppers (rinsed, drained) and set aside a 15oz can of chickpeas (rinsed, drained). I would have also added some artichoke, but I had to let 80 win one ingredient “fight.”
When all of the parts are ready:
Spread a scant layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add half of the eggplant strips, slightly covering each other to cover the bottom. Now I’m not sure if the sauce layer on the bottom was necessary, but I thought it might help a possible sticking situation.
Next spread half of all of the following ingredients: spinach, onion-garlic mixture, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, feta and a sprinkle of S&P. Repeat, starting with the sauce, using about half of it. Then when you’ve layered again add the rest of the sauce and then put it in a 350-375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, then sprinkle with tons of shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for another 20 minutes or so until its melty and a browned to your liking.
Although 80 was kicking and screaming about how he hated eggplant, the boy went back for seconds. And he even lapped up leftovers a few nights later. Of course for the leftovers I added some meat. I diced up pepperoni and let it heat up in a frying pan, after it exuded some fat, I mixed in the lasagna to warm it all up.