Egg­plant and chicken mari­nara a one-dish wonder

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Melissa d’Ara­bian AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Many egg­plant recipes start with slic­ing or dic­ing and saute­ing in oil. But this ap­proach can add a lot of un­nec­es­sary fat to your dish, as por­ous egg­plant flesh ab­sorbs oil like a sponge as it cooks, lead­ing most of us to add more fat than we re­al­ize. In­stead, con­sider roast­ing the egg­plant whole.

Sim­ply pop the en­tire egg­plant in a hot oven — prick a few holes for steam to es­cape and lightly spray or rub with the tini­est bit of olive oil to keep the skin moist — and in 20-45 min­utes (de­pend­ing on size), your egg­plant will be cooked and ready to join al­most any recipe.

Besides be­ing a health­ier cook­ing method than fry­ing, roast­ing is eas­ier, al­most com­pletely hands-off. You can even roast the egg­plant a day in ad­vance to make week­night meals even faster. Roast just un­til ten­der, cut up into cubes and make a stir fry, or cut roasted egg­plant into large chunks and cover in mari­nara sauce and sprin­kle of cheese and bake for a low-oil ver­sion of egg­plant parm.

Or roast un­til com­pletely soft, and scoop out the flesh and mix with gar­lic, smoked pa­prika, and Greek yo­gurt for a de­li­cious dip. Ei­ther way, you’ll get all the ben­e­fits of egg­plant, with its high fiber, low-sugar count, and wide va­ri­ety of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, with­out adding un­nec­es­sary fat. Save the fat, I say, for tasty in­gre­di­ents like a mod­est amount of cheese.

To­day’s recipe, Egg­plant and Chicken Mari­nara, is a one-dish­won­der, where you have veg­gie, com­plex car­bo­hy­drates, and chicken all in one gor­geous dish that is sim­ple enough for fam­ily meals, but pretty enough for com­pany.

Left­over cooked brown rice and chicken add heft to the su­per-lowcalo­rie egg­plant (under 30 calo­ries a cup), but note you can make this meat­less sim­ply by leav­ing out the chicken. The re­sult is some­where be­tween an egg­plant-chicken parm and an egg­plant grati­nee.

But no mat­ter what you de­cide to call it, en­joy know­ing your fam­ily is load­ing up on veg­gies as they dig in. Us­ing baby egg­plant or Ja­panese egg­plant means the skin is soft enough to eat, which will only add to the nu­tri­ent pro­file.

Food Net­work star Melissa d’Ara­bian is an ex­pert on healthy eat­ing on a bud­get. She is the au­thor of the cook­book, “Su­per­mar­ket Healthy.” 4 small egg­plants (“baby” or “Ja­panese” egg­plant at the gro­cery store) 5 cloves gar­lic, minced 1 cups cooked brown rice cup shred­ded Ital­ian cheese (half moz­zarella; half parme­san), di­vided tea­spoon kosher salt tea­spoon black pep­per Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 352 calo­ries; 72 calo­ries from fat; 8 g fat (2 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 84 mg choles­terol; 522 mg sodium; 36 g car­bo­hy­drate; 9 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 32 g pro­tein.

1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil, di­vided 1 medium yel­low onion, diced (about 11⁄2 cups) 1 tea­spoon dried Ital­ian herbs cup dry white wine 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast 2 cups pre­pared mari­nara sauce (no sugar added) Fresh basil for gar­nish (op­tional)

MELISSA D’ARA­BIAN VIA AP

This dish of egg­plant and chicken mari­nara is from a recipe by Melissa d’Ara­bian.

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