Believe it or not, I never encountered an eggplant until I was well into my 20s. I’m absolutely positive I never heard of this vegetable as a kid.
My father had a great big garden every summer with nary an eggplant to be found in it. Cucumbers, squash, corn, tomatoes, beans and watermelon – yes. Eggplant – no. I don’t know where all the eggplants grew, but I know for sure it wasn’t in Daddy’s garden!
Time passed. I grew up. Went to college. Got married. I still hadn’t crossed paths with this member of the nightshade family.
And then it happened.
One night we were having dinner with friends at an Italian restaurant. The specialty of the house was eggplant parmesan. I already knew I liked chicken parmesan so it wasn’t a real stretch for me to try this version.
Our waiter assured me that I’d love it, and feeling adventurous, I ordered it. The waiter was right. It was delicious.
If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn that I was eating a hearty meat dish. It was layered like lasagna with cheese and marinara sauce. I was hooked. I’ve been happily ordering eggplant parmesan ever since.
Unfortunately, I discovered something about this Italian favorite that was disappointing. It’s not all that good for you. Just because something is listed in the vegetarian section of the menu doesn’t mean it’s a healthy dish.
The bad news is that many restaurants (not all) fry the eggplant and then assemble the dish with lots of cheese. The result is a meal high in fat and calories.
The good news is that I know how to solve this. My version is low fat and fabulous. I bake the eggplant instead of frying it, and use low fat cheese, marinara sauce, and lots of Italian spices. I consider it the best eggplant parmesan ever.
If you want a robust Italian dinner that’s good for you, you’re going to love this one. Just don’t wait until you’re all grown up to start eating it!