Mediterranean Eggplant with Ground Turkey

This recipe is for gluten-free dairy-free folks who miss eggplant Parmesan. My challenge? How to transform a classic dish so fiercely reliant on a fried breadcrumb coating and slabs of melty Parmesan cheese? A dish so not gluten-free. Or dairy-free. Or lower glycemic friendly, for that matter.

First, I started with thin, weeped eggplant slices, brushed lightly with extra virgin olive oil and roasted in a hot oven- all by their lonesome. No coating. This makes for a delicate, slightly crispy eggplant slice, let me tell you. Then a topping. We whipped up a quick homemade ragu of Italian tomatoes, browned ground organic turkey with onions, garlic and herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar. In other words, love, Mediterranean style.

Mediterranean Eggplant with Ground Turkey

Ingredients:

2 medium firm eggplants
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3/4 pound ground organic free-range turkey
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup light broth or pure plain tomato juice, as needed
2-3 fresh mint or basil sprigs

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2. Weep the eggplant to remove the bitterness. Salt the slices of eggplant and toss them into a colander. Allow them to "weep" moisture for 20 minutes. Press with a spatula to squeeze any last remaining liquid. Rinse in cold water briefly; drain. Pat dry with a clean tea towel.

3. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly on both sides with a little olive oil. Roast the slices in the oven till fork tender and a wee bit crispy around the edges. This takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes or so depending upon your oven, and the thickness of your eggplant.

4. In the meantime heat a deep sided skillet on medium-high heat and cook the onions for five minutes or so, till softened; add and cook the ground turkey, breaking it apart and stirring a bit here and there until nicely browned. Add the chopped garlic, oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme. Stir and cook a minute. Add the tomatoes, balsamic and broth; stir and bring to a simmer. Season with sea salt, to taste. Reduce heat and cover, keeping it on a steady slow simmer. Cook this ragu for about 15 minutes- till the turkey is thoroughly cooked. If you need a small amount of liquid at this point, add a splash of broth. Remove from heat.

5. Lightly oil four individual serving gratin dishes or a single shallow baking dish such as an 9 x 12-inch baking dish.

6. When the eggplant is done remove the baking sheet from the oven and reset your oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

7. Divide the cooked eggplant slices among the four individual gratin dishes (or layer them into a single baking dish). Top with the cooked turkey and tomato ragu. Bake in a 350ºF oven till heated through- about 15 to 20 minutes.

8. Chop some mint leaves or basil and sprinkle on the dish before serving. Add a mint sprig for color. Serve with a crisp green salad.

Additional Info:

Vegetarians- simply omit the turkey and use rough chopped Portabella mushrooms.

For those of you enjoying dairy, sprinkle the top with some feta cheese, or crumbled goat cheese.

If you'd like to serve this dish with a grain it pairs well with low glycemic brown rice or cooked quinoa pilaf.

Serves 4.

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