Like many of you, I adore a good plate of lasagna. It’s a beautifully textured comfort food and just plain tastes good. Unlike many of you, the thrill of a steaming tray of lasagna being pulled from the oven is NOT a childhood memory for me. Growing up on Betty Crocker casserole recipes in a waspy household, I did not discover the joys of this layered pasta dish until well into my 20s. Once I had my first forkful, however, there was no turning back.
The way it oozed creamy ricotta was positively hedonistic! And then there was that melted layer of mozzarella that lay over the top like a lead canopy, rivulets of melted fat drizzling over the pungent marinara sauce that enveloped it all. And holding the fortress together was PASTA in long starchy ribbons that buttressed every layer of meat or cheese, as the case may be. Since it was labor-intensive, some of my favorites were the frozen varieties during my eating days. And since there was never enough of a cheese canopy for my liking, I always made sure to have an auxiliary bag of shredded mozz at the ready.
Those days are gone, and so is my affiliation with traditional lasagna. I’ve cleaned up both my coping mechanisms and list of ingredients considerably. Including the employment of eggplant slices instead of gluten-free pasta. Be my guest if you prefer the pasta but I conserve carbs wherever and whenever I can.
Like the original version, this lasagna is labor-intensive, but oh-so-worth-it! This particular version is for one or two servings, and fits nicely in a bread loaf pan.
1 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise in ¼-inch thick slices
2 eggs, well beaten
About a cup of 4C gluten-free bread crumbs
Light olive oil or grapeseed oil for frying
8-10 slices of hard goat cheese (available at Costco, Trader Joe’s and specialty stores) OR 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded Manchego cheese.
¾ pound ground beef or sausage, cooked, drained, and cooled
2 4.5 ounce containers of chevre (preferably Trader Joe’s Creamy Goat Cheese), room temperature
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons grated Peccorino cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Place eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Top with another layer of towel and let moisture drain for at least 10 minutes. Blot well with more dry towels as the final step. Heat oil in wok or skillet, so oil is about a ½ inch deep. Heat well over medium-high heat. While oil heats, dip eggplant slices in egg wash, and then bread crumbs. You’ll probably only be able to fry two or three pieces at a time. Fry at least three minutes per side, until brown and crisp. When cooked, place eggplant slices on clean paper towels, letting excess oil absorb.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, blend chevre, the two beaten eggs, and black pepper with a whisk until smooth and creamy. The texture should be smooth and pudding-like.
Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Layer ingredients in a bread loaf pan beginning with an eggplant slice, followed by beef, chevre sauce, and a slice of hard cheese. Continue layering until pan is filled (it’s OK if the lasagna rises above pan level). Be sure to end with a layer of chevre sauce followed by hard cheese. Sprinkle the final layer of chevre sauce with oregano before placing the final layer of hard cheese over the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.
Stacey Morris is a Loudonville author, yoga instructor, and health coach who is maintaining a 180-pound weight loss through clean eating and regular DDPYOGA workouts. She’s the author of “Clean Comfort,” “Sweet Comfort,” and “A Bowl of Comfort.” Her website is www.staceymorris.com.