When Sam dreams up a recipe, I pay attention. It’s not easy inventing vegetarian recipes for her so when she takes the initiative to create a dish in her head and she describes how it should be executed, it’s a lot of help. Well, except when her ideas are too complicated. She has a tendency to do that.
So, Sam was talking about a lasagne-style dish with eggplants instead of pasta. Because she’d vegetarian, she said the meat sauce should be replaced with vegetarian chili. Easy, I thought, and I executed her idea as soon as I had all the ingredients in the kitchen.
There are two ways to create this layered eggplant and chili dish. One is to bake it after assembly. The second is to assemble it while the eggplant slices and chili are hot so that the cheese melts in the residual heat. The top layer of cheese gets the torch treatment to get that toasted look and taste.
Which is the better method? Baking is better because the flavors get a chance to really blend. The dish in the photos was not baked partly due to time constraints and partly because it was a very hot and humid day when I made it and turning on the oven would just add to the trapped heat in the kitchen. So, I opted to assemble everything while the eggplant slices and chili were hot.
Layered eggplant and chili, lasagne style
- 1 large eggplant cut into 1/4-inch slices
- olive oil for frying
- 1 cup vegetarian chili (best to keep it simmering on the stove while preparing the eggplants IF you’re not going to bake the dish after assembly)
- 1/3 cup cheese (any kind, so long as it melts well), shredded
- Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.
- Heat enough olive oil in a frying pan to generously cover the bottom.
- Fry the eggplant slices, flipping halfway through, until softened and lightly browned.
- Divide the eggplant slices, chili and cheese into two portions.
- Layer half of the eggplant slices at the bottom of a single-serve ramekin. Top with half of the chili.
- Cover the chili with half of the cheese.
- Repeat to make another layer of eggplant slices, chili and cheese.
- You can choose to bake the dish at this point. It’s a small serving so about 10 minutes in a pre-heated 375F oven should be enough.
- Or you can do what I did. I asked Speedy to turn on our new bigass kitchen torch (the old one seen in the crème brûlée post had conked out) and use it to melt and brown the top layer of cheese.