Roasted Asparagus & Tomatoes with Eggplant Parm “Lasagna”
_ _I’ve never really bought in to the craziness of Valentine’s Day… probably in part because until a couple of years ago I had never had a steady boyfriend to spend it with and I sounded like less of a bitter sadsack if I could act nonchalant about it all– tell people I just didn’t believe in lining the pockets of CEOs at Hallmark. I was taking a political and socially responsible stand!
_ _Well, February this year finds my boyfriend away training in Louisiana. As I sat thinking about how all weekend at work I’m going to have to serve food to annoying, glassy-eyed couples as they pet each other across the table, I decided that in order to have an excuse to make fancy food, drink (too much) wine, and eat my body weight in desserts, I would invite my friend Ana to visit me. I didn’t intend to make it a vegetarian meal; I honestly picked these particular dishes because I figured they would be light enough that I could clean my plate and still have room for approximately 2,000 cheesecake-stuffed chocolate strawberries. Finally, the perfect V-day celebration: a good meal, alcohol and slasher films… Ahh true romance.
FOR THE SIDES
Asparagus (about 5 stalks per person)
Salt (coarse salt is preferable, not table salt)
1/2 pint Grape Tomatoes
2-3 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar (this will create extra but can be easily stored for later use)
FOR THE ENTREE
1 medium Eggplant
1 cup Panko
1/2 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
*If you don’t have bread crumbs, use italian seasoning with the panko. If you don’t have panko, you can always use all bread crumbs, but the panko makes the coating crunchier!
2-3 cups Marinara
3/4 cup Mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup Ricotta
To make the balsamic reduction:
1. Heat a small saucepan on high. Once the pot is hot, add the balsamic and whisk constantly to avoid burning. Keep whisking until the vinegar has reduced by about half and is thickens. Cover and set vinegar aside. This can be made days ahead of time if need be! It will seem to get quite syrupy in the fridge but allow it to come back to room temp and it will return to a good consistency.
WARNING: this process will create a veryyy strong smell. Even with the kitchen window open and the oven fan on, the smell of vinegar permeated my entire apartment so if you’re planning on making this for guests I recommend making it at least a day ahead.
Preheat the oven to 350F
1. Trim the ends of the asparagus off and put them in a single layer in a glass baking dish and add the tomatoes next to them in the same dish. Toss all the vegetables in olive oil until lightly coated. Sprinkle salt over the asparagus and VERY lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with garlic salt (a little goes a long way). Cover the dish in foil and set these aside while you prepare the eggplant.
2. Cut the eggplant into rings about 1/2 an inch thick. I like the peel but if you don’t, you can trim that off.
3. In one bowl, lightly beat the eggs together. In another bowl combine the panko and bread crumbs.
4. Dip the eggplant in the egg and then the panko, making sure both sides are covered. Shake the excess off and put them in a single layer on a lightly greased (with olive oil or cooking spray) baking sheet.
5. Place both the eggplant and covered asparagus dish in the oven. Bake the eggplant for about 7 minutes on each side and then remove both dishes. The eggplant should have a crunchy crust to it; the asparagus should be cooked with only a slight crunch to it still and the tomatoes will have burst.
6. In a glass baking dish put a thin layer of marinara on the bottom, then layer a row of eggplant slices. Cover the slices with more sauce, then a layer of ricotta cheese. Place another eggplant slice on top of these and again cover with sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake these again for about 5 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and gooey.
To serve: Drizzle the asparagus with the balsamic reduction and layer on the tomatoes next to a stack of eggplant “lasagna”