So you love summer grilling but are getting a little bit tired of it all. That pot of chili simmering on the back burner or a chicken casserole in the oven is beginning to sound like something you want. (Smells, good, huh?) Salads truly make you a happy camper, but your mouth is just a wee bit sick of chewing…chewing…chewing. Welcome a new girl on your cooking block: grilled eggplant lasagna. You might rather think of it as Eggplant Parmesan Stacks or just Eggplant Parmesan–and you can– but as I recently realized: there’s mozzarella in this gorgeous and quick summer dinner. Which makes it more like lasagna, right? You call it whatever you like, but make it.
This meal looks and feels like pasta, but there’s no pasta in sight, making it perfect for a gluten-free meal. Seems a bit like meat, but the meat stayed at the store while the vegetables came home to play. (Scroll down for notes for both G-F and vegan.) There’s little to it but grilling the eggplant and zucchini, topping the eggplant with fresh mozzarella, then layering it all on the plate with warm marinara and shaved Parmesan. A few flakes of crushed red pepper add zing, if you like, and a plate lined with greens tidies the whole thing up and makes it both beautiful and healthful. Try this, even if you’re unsure about eggplant:
GRILLED EGGPLANT LASAGNA
4 servings Guests could make their own lasagna if you serve the vegetables on platters. This is a bit of an ad hoc meal. Leftovers are easily put together for more lasagna or do as I did, eat the cheesy eggplant for snacks, chopped up in your morning omelet, or as Dave would, between big toasted baguette slices. If you use baby or young eggplant, you can skip the peeling. No gas or charcoal grill? Grill indoors or sauté or broil or bake the vegetables. (Notes for Vegan and/or Gluten-Free versions below.)
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 1 eggplant, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (no salting/draining needed) My eggplant was about 3/4 pound untrimmed and unpeeled.
- 2 medium zucchini, trimmed sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch pieces
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 8 -10 slices fresh mozzarella (approximately 1/2 pound or 8 ounces)
- 3 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store bought-or to taste, warmed*
- 12 fresh basil leaves, optional, or 2 tablespoons dried basil
- Crushed red pepper, optional
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat grill to medium high.
- Divide the spinach between the four dinner plates and set aside.
- Brush eggplant and zucchini very well with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Grill until browned on one side and and turn–3-5 minutes per side for eggplant–perhaps half that time for the zucchini. Add a slice of mozzarella to each eggplant slice. Close grill, if possible, to melt cheese. Remove vegetables (zucchini will be first) to a platter when brown on both sides and tender and when cheese is melted on eggplant.
- Warm marinara sauce while vegetables grill.
- To assemble: Layer eggplant with cheese, a big spoonful of marinara, a basil leaf or a sprinkle of dried basil, (if using), crushed red pepper (if using), grated Parmesan, and zucchini; repeat for each serving or as desired. Each of my stacks seemed to come out a little differently! Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with bread, if desired. (Skip for Gluten-Free version.)
*If you buy marinara, try to find a brand without too much sugar; I like Rao’s. It’s expensive, but it’s worth the cost if you really need to save time or don’t want to cook indoors.
VEGAN OR GLUTEN-FREE: This recipe is naturally Gluten-Free (check purchased marinara and cheeses for gluten); skip the additional bread, of course. For a vegan version, skip the cheese and use crispy bread crumbs browned in olive oil and/or grilled mushrooms between the vegetable layers. Top with more browned crumbs and toasted, chopped walnuts nuts or pine nuts. For both vegan and Gluten-Free, layer with finely chopped toasted nuts/grilled mushrooms only or use Gluten-Free bread crumbs.
.WINE: A great time to break out an Italian red in the summer. An inexpensive Barbera or Chianti would be perfect..
DESSERT: Since you ate so well, a little scoop of lemon sorbet with fresh berries sounds great. Haagen Dazs makes a good Limoncello gelato that I like. Otherwise, break out the watermelon and go back to “summer.”.
Sing a new song; skip the salad tonight, Alyce