Happy Saturday, everyone!
We are now five days into Hunger Action Month and it has really made me think about all the different ways we can reach out and fight hunger in our communities.
Food pantries are one way that communities can support our neighbors in need, but it’s another food outreach program that has captured my heart… Meals On Wheels (MOW).
Meals On Wheels is a nationwide organization that provides meals to homebound seniors to help them remain independent and stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Caring volunteers not only provide a nutritious meal, but also a friendly visit (and conduct a much needed safety check). It is a great organization that is staffed by great people who are passionate about taking care of their neighbors.
During graduate school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the local Meals On Wheels program. This program was housed in the basement kitchen of a public housing complex, which allowed them to cook all the food they served their MOW clients. It was my first experience in a restaurant-grade kitchen and my first experience working with massive quantities of food. It was AMAZING.
My friends and I were tasked with assembling meal trays for delivery and dividing large batches of salads, desserts, and rolls into single-serve portions (not much cooking) and it really made us focus on our food service and food safety skills. Our reward after a long morning of serving up food was being able try the leftovers on the hot food line. My absolute favorite hot item that they made there was eggplant parmesan. But this was not just any eggplant parmesan… it was eggplant parmesan rounds.
What I love about this version of eggplant parm is that it is super simple (and breading-free), allowing the eggplant to really stand out and shine – the way eggplant parm should be (in my opinion). I never got the official recipe, but this recipe is the closest to that eggplant parm I ate during graduate school at Meals On Wheels.
It all starts with an eggplant that’s been sliced in ½ inch slices.
Then placed in a colander and salted with some kosher salt – this step seems unnecessary but it really helps the eggplant have a better texture and removes some of the bitterness (yay!). Let the eggplant sit for about fifteen minutes, which is about the time it takes my oven to reach 400 degrees.
When the oven reaches temp, thoroughly rinse off the eggplant, pat it dry, and coat it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Then place it on a greased cookie sheet.
Pop the eggplant into the oven for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant rounds over halfway through.
When 20 minutes is up, pull the eggplant out of the oven.
And spoon on a bit of your favorite marinara sauce – this is some really good jarred stuff.
Then sprinkle on some part-skim mozzarella cheese.
And then the secret ingredient….
… some seasoned bread crumbs. Just a small sprinkle (about ¼ teaspoon per slice) does the trick – it adds a little texture and crunch to the dish.
Now, just pop the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.
It is a memory of a wonderful volunteer experience (and a fitting dish to enjoy during Hunger Action Month).
So, kiddos, what have you been up to during the first four days of September? Anything fun? Let me know!
Your eggplant parm makin’, Meals On Wheels lovin’ friend,
MOW Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant, sliced into ½ inch sliced width-wise
1 teaspoon kosher salt – for salting the eggplant
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ to ¾ cup marinara sauce
¾ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs
Red pepper flake and dried oregano for serving
- Salt eggplant slices with kosher salt and place in a colander that is set in a sink. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to allow for some of the water and bitterness to leave.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a high-sided cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
- When the oven reaches temperature, rinse the eggplant under cold water, pat dry, and coat both sides with the olive oil, table salt, and black pepper. Place the slices in one even layer on the cookie sheet (if your slices are big in diameter, you may need a second cookie sheet). Pop the eggplant into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices over once in the middle of cooking.
- After 20 minutes, remove the eggplant from the oven. Spoon about a tablespoon of marinara sauce on each slice and then sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon of shredded mozzarella per slice. Finally, sprinkle over some seasoned bread crumbs – about ¼ teaspoon per slice.
- Place the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.
To serve: sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and/or dried oregano as desired.
Nutrition Information (1 serving):
166 calories • 16gm carbohydrates • 5gm fiber • 8gm protein • 9gm fat • 3gm saturated fat • 629mg sodium • 11mg cholesterol • 1mg iron • 183mg calcium