These little eggplant pizza’s were inspired by Julia Child’s recipe, found in From Julia Child’s Kitchen. They’re delicious and easy and great if you love eggplant, if you want a dish along the lines of pizza without the gluten or the carbs, or if you’re looking for a new vegetarian entree. I like to eat this as an entree with a nice garden salad to go along with it, but you could use it as a side dish as well. Or even as a snack (as I’m doing now).
Although it looks like this dish requires a lot of prep, it really doesn’t. The first step takes thirty minutes, but it’s a hands-off step. Slice your eggplant into rounds about 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Lay the rounds in a layer on folded paper towels, sprinkle with pepper and add another folded paper towel on top. Allow to sit for at least thirty minutes. The salt will extract some of the bitter liquid from the eggplant. It’s an important step that makes eggplant taste a lot better. So don’t omit it! And feel free to sit while the eggplant does. :)
I keep the sauce really simple. I use a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes. I really like the flavor of San Marzano tomatoes, and I highly recommend that you seek them out if you’ve never tried them. I can’t always find them in my local grocery store, but I do find them in specialty markets on Federal Hill and in Whole Foods. So I stock up when I find them.
What makes San Marzano tomatoes special? Well, let me tell you a little about terroir and D.O.P. They’re terms often discussed in culinary school. Basically, terroir means that the unique geography and climate of a particular location impacts the flavor of a product grown there in such a way that the product can not be reproduced and taste quite as good anywhere else.
It’s the same with San Marzano tomatoes. They’re grown in the San Marzano region of Italy. The terroir gives them a flavor that’s incredible, and the D.O.P. protects its reputation by not allowing other producers to call their tomatoes San Marzano.
But, as we all know, labels can still be misleading. So beware: You want to buy San Marzano tomatoes. Not San Marzano region and not San Marzano style. You want San Marzano tomatoes — a small can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or two or three or more to stock up on — because they’re soooo good on homemade pizzas, like these eggplant pizzas, as well as homemade margherita pizza. You’ll want a supply of them in your cupboard!)
So, now that you understand a little about terroir and D.O.P., I’d just like to say that finding the tomatoes — that is, San Marzano tomatoes, and not San Marzano style or region — is the most difficult part about this recipe. The rest is easy. And if you use regular old crushed tomatoes, well, you’ll probably be ok. Probably. But, as you can see, I’m partial to the San Marzanos.
- Slice eggplant into rounds about ½ – ¾ inch thick. Lay them on folded paper towels in a single layer. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and add another layer of folded paper towels on top. Let sit for at least thirty minutes to allow the salt to extract some of the bitter liquid. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Put parchment paper onto a baking tray (or apply a thin layer of olive oil). Place eggplant rounds on baking tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Bake in oven for 18 minutes.
- Meanwhile, reduce your balsamic to a glaze: Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan or non-stick frying pan over medium heat (it should bubble softly) for about eight to ten minutes. A better guide than time is to make note of the level of the liquid in the pan before you begin heating it, and take it off the heat when it’s reduced by half. Allow the liquid to cool and then check the consistency. If it’s not syrupy when cooled, put it back on the heat and let it bubble softly for another couple of minutes.
- Remove the eggplant from the oven after the 18 minutes and change oven to broiler setting. Sprinkle eggplant rounds with Italian seasoning. Put 1-2 tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes onto each round. Top with feta cheese and place baking tray under the broiler for about five minutes. Watch carefully. As soon as the cheese begins to soften and turn golden, remove from broiler.
- Top each pizza round with chiffonaded basil, drizzle with some of the reduced balsamic glaze, and serve.
Chiffonade means to slice into thin ribbons. Stack the basil leaves, roll them and then thinly slice.
You can purchase a bottle of balsamic glaze if you don’t want to reduce your own. Balsamic glaze is found in most supermarkets in the aisles with the vinegars. If you do reduce your own, you’ll have more than you need for this recipe. Extras can be stored in an airtight container. Use on homemade pizza, sliced tomatoes, caprese salad, or mix with olive oil and your favorite herbs to use as a dipping sauce for bread.
All carbs are not created equal
Diets should include whole grain foods. But read product labels carefully as foods marked multigrain or 100 per cent whole wheat.
Now seems the time to talk about the importance of carbohydrates, after recent and endless articles about losing weight on various diets that encourage people to increase their consumption of protein and avoid carbohydrates.
Although many people and even private chefs in NYC have chosen to severely limit their consumption of carbohydrates, most of these diets do emphasize the importance of whole grains
Contrary to popular belief, they do not categorize all carbohydrates as bad nor do they tell people to avoid them. Instead emphasis is placed on whole grains or complex carbohydrates.
Many manufactured food products are made with white flour, which is not a good source of complex carbohydrates. Whole grain flours contain all of the goodness of the grain and these should be chosen more often. The white flour that we know today was “invented” more than a century ago as the milling process became more industrialized.Removing the bran and germ gave the flour a longer shelf life, but the lack of nutrients brought about a worldwide epidemic of pellagra (a disease that causes skin rashes, diarrhea and mouth sores, and can result in mental deterioration) and beriberi (caused by thiamine deficiency, one of the vitamins found in whole grains). As a result, governments in North America decided that wheat flour should be fortified to replace the vitamins lost when the bran and germ are removed. This practice continues today.
WHY EAT THEM?
Whole grains have three components: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. The bran is the source of fiber and minerals (zinc, magnesium, chromium and iron among others), vitamins, protein and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are nutrients that are only found in plant foods and have proven health benefits such as antioxidant properties. The endosperm contains protein, B vitamins and carbohydrate, making it the main source of energy in the grain. The germ is the smallest part of the grain but contains many nutrients — including vitamin E. In fact it is the storehouse of nutrients needed for a new plant to sprout.
The most important point to remember is that it is the entire grain that provides a balanced source of nutrients. Fortifying a refined product does not have the same synergistic effect as consuming the whole grain.
CLYCEMIC INDEX AND LOAD
Another term that is bantered about these days is glycemic index (GI). This index measures the effect of carbohydrate on blood glucose and is based on the carbohydrate available in the food, measured on a per gram basis.
Simply put, it is the effect that one gram of carbohydrate has on the blood glucose level of an individual. Foods with a lower GI value produce a lower blood glucose response than foods with a higher GI value. This measure is not without controversy since the values are based on glycemic carbohydrate, or the effect of carbohydrate rather than of the food itself. The values that arise from this method can lead to confusion for consumers.
For instance, according to GI tables, angel food cake has a GI of 67 and white bread has a GI of 70, leading a person to believe that the cake will have less effect on their blood sugar than the bread. While both are made from white flour, the cake would very likely contain much more sugar than the bread — a confusing situation indeed. Consequently, a more user-friendly tool was created — the glycemic load. Glycemic load (GL) measures the effect that a normal serving size of a specific food has on blood glucose levels. Using this method, you would compare a normal portion of angel food cake and one slice of bread. The angel food cake would have a GL of 19 while the slice of white bread would have a GL of 10.
Using this methodology, it is clear that the white bread would be a better choice than the angel food cake. By comparison, a slice of whole grain bread has a GL of 8 which would be a better alternative to the white bread.
ENJOY WHOLE GRAIN FOODS
Grains such as wheat, quinoa or millet can be consumed as whole grains (i.e. the entire grain) or in a ground form such as whole grain flour. Products labelled as multigrain or 100 per cent whole wheat may not necessarily contain whole grains. The 100 per cent whole wheat label indicates that all of the flour content is wheat, but the flour may not contain the three components of the kernel. As a result, the final product will lack some of the nutrients found in the kernel of the whole grain.
There are many whole grain products on the market; you just need to seek them out. In fact you may already enjoy many whole grain products. When reading the ingredient label on the package look for words like “whole wheat flour,” “whole oats,” etc. Another way to ensure that you are consuming complex carbohydrates is to look at the fiber content of a product. If whole wheat flour is listed, but the fiber content of the product is 1 gram per serving, then the amount of whole wheat flour is perhaps not as significant as other types of flour.
Foods with three or more grams of fiber per serving are considered a source of fiber. Aim to purchase and enjoy more foods with at least three or more grams of fiber per serving.
With this knowledge you can be a more informed consumer and choose more whole grain foods for you and your family. Even when going out where private chefs cook for you you should ask what kind of carbs they use.…