There are a few variations of this dish that you can try. The first time made this, I stuck to Chef Jeff's original recipe and was full, and fulfilled. I liked that this was easy to assemble, and baked, not fried. (I'm not one for cleaning up a greasy mess in my kitchen.)
This is a great vegetarian option, and if you'd like to spice it up by adding some ground sausage to the sauce, feel free. Creativity and inspiration in the kitchen lead to some of the world's greatest dishes.
As for Eggplant Towers, my seven year old said, "My concept of this is excellent." :) It brought out the junior food critic in her. If it can wow a first grader, it's safe to say it's something special. It's cheesey, toothy, garlicky, and oh soo good.
2 large eggplants*
1 35 oz. can crushed plum tomatoes**
1 cup ricotta cheese (1/4 cup per eggplant serving)
1 cup grated mozzarella
3 garlic cloves (smashed or minced - I prefer minced)
1 small bunch fresh basil, minced (I suggest 7 or 8 large leaves), plus 4 whole basil leaves for garnish
1 small bunch fresh oregano, separated from stems, minced (I suggest 5 - 6 stems)
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing the baking dish if not using non-stick cooking spray)
1. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a heated pot. Add garlic & cook until slightly tan in color. (It should take less than 1 minute.) Stir the garlic constantly.
2. Add the crushed tomatoes.
3. Add the basil and oregano.
4. Let the sauce simmer until it's barely bubbling. (Cover the sauce to prevent splattering.)
5. Cut the ends off of the eggplant. Then cut each eggplant in half. Each eggplant should make 2 serving portions.
6. Core each eggplant half by using a small knife and carving out the center leaving about 1/8 of an inch border around the skin. Save the inner eggplant pieces.
7. Cut the eggplant that you cut out of the halves into 1/2 inch pieces, or smaller.
8. In a separate heated deep-sided pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and immediately add the eggplant pieces with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the eggplant quickly until all of the pieces are coated.
Eggplant absorbs oil very quickly so you can't dilly-dally here. If you were too slow, you may need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan to give all pieces a good coating.
9. Sauté the eggplant stirring frequently on medium-high heat for about 12 minutes or until the eggplant starts to soften and change to a less opaque color. The color darkens a little bit.
10. Add the eggplant to the sauce.
11. Prepare a baking dish or an oven sheet with sides by coating it with non-stick cooking spray or rub some olive oil on it.
12. Take the eggplant halves and place them in the baking dish standing up.
13. Preheat your oven to 425 ⁰.
14. Using a tablespoon, start building the layers. This is what I mean: Take 1 generous spoonful of the eggplant sauce and place it in each eggplant half. Top with 1 teaspoon of grated mozzarella. Top that layer with 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese.
15. Repeat layers of eggplant sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta, gently pushing down with the spoon until you reach the top. (2 layers usually does it.)
16. The top layer should end with the ricotta cheese and then you can sprinkle a bit of mozzarella on last for a finishing touch.
17. Place the eggplant in the oven for approximately 45 minutes.
18. When you take the eggplant out of the oven, let them sit for about 5 minutes before plating so they firm up.
19. Spoon any leftover eggplant sauce in the center of each plate for presentation. Place an eggplant half in the middle of the sauce. Garnish each eggplant half with a basil leaf in the center.
* Depending on how large your eggplants are, you may get 3 servings out of one eggplant by cutting it into thirds, instead of just 2.
** I prefer to use boxed tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or tomatoes packed in glass jars versus canned. Here's why: The resin linings of tin cans reacts with the acidity in the tomatoes, which causes BPA to penetrate the contents.
Variations: Add cooked, crumbled sausage to the eggplant sauce. You can also sauté chopped onions and/or mushrooms with the garlic and incorporate that into the sauce, too.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
This analysis is based upon using part skim ricotta.
Fat: 17 g
Carbs: 17 g
Sodium: 382 mg
Sugar: 11 g
Potassium: 0 mg
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Vit A: 6% (of daily)
Vit C: 3% (of daily)
Calcium: 6% (of daily)
Iron: 1 mg
Fiber: 0 g
*NOTE: These figures are only estimates. They are provided as is and may be inaccurate depending on individual ingredient choices and measurements. This should be used only as a general assessment. This is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment or deficiency, but to provide an estimated nutritional profile. The term (“of daily”) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.