So this is how I am dealing with it still being summer and all the fall-like weather we have been having.
I am making summer foods the cozy way – and loving it so much!
I should add that I really love cozy foods at any time of the year, but at least this way I am still getting my fill of my beloved summer produce!
Actually, the weather here the last two days has been pretty nice, but at the time I was making these it was raining, dark and forty degrees, so I think you can understand my desire to do some roasting in the oven.
I am sorry if it is blazing hot where you are (lucky!!) and you cannot even fathom the idea of turning on the oven. To be honest, I do not even know what that feels like, so it is hard for me to relate (Ok, I did go to Florida this summer, but my grandma keeps the house VERY air-conditioned so it is not like I was suffering from the heat while inside). Where I live, it is never too hot for a little oven action. Did you know that none of the houses or businesses are even built with air conditioning? Yep, at least I never have to worry about going anywhere and having the A/C blasting out too cold air on me. Up here we just open up the windows and a cool mountain breeze will take care of any excess heat.
Ok, now you are all probably hating me because you are sweating your butts off. I am sorry, maybe you could send your heat my way and I’ll share some cool mountain air with you?
Wouldn’t that be nice if we could work that out?
Really though, these cute little boats are chock full of garden veggies. They are a lot lighter than your typical “it’s mid winter and all I want is an extra cozy, extra saucy and extra cheesy lasagna”. I will even go as far as saying these are extra healthy. That is of course if you consider a little cheese healthy, which I do.
This was my first time really roasting eggplant, and you know, I think eggplant is really starting to grow on me. Once it’s roasted it takes on a whole new life. Then I piled on a delicious meat sauce with spicy italian chicken sausage. One of my little secrets about meat sauce is that I pretty much always use a sausage instead of just plain beef. I find that the sausage adds so much more flavor and I always like a little spice too.
These do take a little time to make, but it is mostly time spent roasting. Nothing hard or complicated about them. I know that some people are pretty serious about salting their eggplants before cooking, but I just did not feel like taking the time to do that. If you would like to, go for it, but mine turned out great minus any pre-soaking/salting.
Also, if you really cannot get your head around the idea of turning on your oven, grilling the eggplant would be a great idea. I have never tried it, but you can probably even wrap the garlic in foil and grill that as well. Maybe just rotate it 3-4 times throughout grilling to make sure one side doesn’t get burnt. Then you can cook the sauce on the stove and melt the cheese by placing the boats back on the grill for five minutes or so. That should do the trick. So there, then you will not even have to turn the oven on. A solution for all.
These are definitely a meal on their own, but I served them with a side of whole grain pasta and a simple summer salad. Kind of perfect for entertaining because they are fun, easy and you can prepare the boats in advance. Just warm them up to melt the cheese prior to serving.
If some of you eggplant lasagna boat eaters really aren’t into chicken, try swapping extra veggies and lentils into the sauce. Maybe even add some extra spices and you’ll have the perfect vegetable eggplant lasagna. Ya!
Man, I am just full of alternatives. It’s that whole pleasing everyone thing, I like to do it as much as possible. I just can’t help it.
No lie though, these are so stinkin good. And really, I just want everyone to be able to enjoy them like I really do!!
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves. Peel any excess paper/skin off from the bulb of garlic. Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil
- Rub the cut sides of the eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place both the eggplant (cut side down) and garlic on a baking sheet.
- Roast both the garlic and eggplant for 30-45 minutes, or until the garlic is golden brown and the eggplant is soft.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the sausage and break apart into small pieces. Brown the sausage all over, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet and set on a plate.
- Add another drizzle of olive oil to the skillet, add the onions to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the red peppers, zucchini and thyme to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for another 5 minutes. Simmer the sauce on the stove while preparing the rest of the meal.
- Once the garlic and eggplant have roasted, squeeze the garlic out of the paper skin into a small bowl and mash well with a fork. To the garlic add 1/4 cup chopped basil, crushed red pepper flakes and the parmesan.
- Flip the eggplants over and rub them all over with the garlic mix. Drizzle with olive oil. Place the eggplant back in the oven for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant and top each half with the meat sauce. Try to stuff the meat sauce into the middle of the eggplant. Layer on the slices of mozzarella cheese. Place back in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serve warm with fresh basil and a side of pasta if desired.
Now can we just make these and pretend it’s Friday already (sorry, lasagna just seems like a Friday meal to me)? Well at least we’re almost there – happy Thursday!