The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show last month in Orlando offered little in healthy food trends, but pasteurized eggs, gluten-free cookies and bamboo disposable containers filled my show souvenir bag. The show stopper was a platter of potato chips with blue cheese and balsamic glaze designated as an appetizer. At first glance, it looked like potato chips drizzled with chocolate syrup!
Cheese ranked supreme at the show. That fact, combined with the interest in all things gluten-free, got me thinking about eggplant lasagna, in which the eggplant takes the place of pasta.
Eggplants — also known as aubergines — come in various colors and shapes and sizes, but they all have lots of potassium and calcium not found in pasta. Plus, eggplant (provided you don't deep-fry it) is low in calories, so those watching their waistlines can enjoy lasagna without guilt.
Eggplants hail from India and China but became very popular throughout Europe and Africa by the 17th century. They are cultivated around the world and used in a variety of dishes such as Malaysian or Thai curries, Balkan moussaka, and Italian Melanzane alla Parmigiani (aubergine baked with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese).
The Internet is full of health claims for eggplant. Chinese medicine promotes eggplant for blood disorders. Those sensitive to foods in the nightshade family — potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant — may want to use a pasta noodle instead of the eggplant slices in this recipe.
Here is my favorite way to make eggplant lasagna. It is gluten-free and low calorie. The big difference between this and most recipes is that pesto is used instead of a tomato sauce. The lasagna can be made with ground beef or turkey (1 pound sauteed, then sprinkled on the eggplant slices) or without.
Betty Wedman-St. Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.