Friday, November 2, 2012

Inside the Kitchen with Louisville Lady Gourmet! Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron

Hello dear food-lovers! Today marks the day of my first original article for the Inside the Kitchen column with the Insider Louisville publication.

I currently write two columns for them, the first being Juice which is a health food column released on Tuesdays, and the second is Inside the Kitchen with the Louisville Lady Gourmet, which will feature both ambitious and delicious recipes as well as my comments on the food culture of Louisville.

So, on Tuesday or Friday you will receive a link to my Insider Louisville Column!

Today's Inside the Kitchen post is about an irresistible Eggplant Lasagna (sans pasta) with Saffron. Layers include roasted eggplants, tomato sauce, saffron risotto, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

I hope you enjoy: Inside the Kitchen Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron

I am enamored by food, and my insatiable appetite has brought me many adventures in cooking. Transforming fresh food into the gastronomic trinity of breakfast, lunch, and dinner is my only true addiction, and I thank our hometown for nurturing that set of skills.
As Louisvillians, we have such a wealth of resources to stretch our culinary muscles, from our public cornucopia farmers markets to our flourishing and exciting dining scene. We are constantly surrounded by good food and inspiring cooks, so let me give you a peek inside my kitchen to see what this Louisville Lady Gourmet is getting up to.
My favorite memories usually revolve around sharing food with dear friends. Nothing unites us more in merry conversation than a warm dish of nourishing food, am I right? Add a bottle of wine and the conversation gets a little louder and the laughter even more frequent.
The moment I can dish out seconds is when I know we’re sharing a great moment together. This dish did the trick with its warm tomato sauce nestled in melted, fresh mozzarella cheese and rounded off by the yielding bite of the roasted eggplant and the creamy saffron risotto. If you are a fan of saffron, here is your chance to see what it can do next to tomatoes, and it is pretty much what saffron can do to anything… turn it to culinary gold!
Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron
Adapted from Bon Appétit
2 Eggplants
1 Onion, minced
Olive oil
1 C Rice (arborio is preferred for risotto)
Pinch of saffron
1/4 C White wine
1 C Water
Black Pepper
Homemade Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Black Pepper
2 C Fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
1 C Grated parmesan

Some notes before we begin:
I recommend using a mandolin slicer for the eggplant, but a sharp knife will do. You just need thin, uniform slices.
Remember that risottos become fluffy and creamy through movement, so if you have some pan-tossing skills, this is a good time to exercise them (or begin practice– it’s so fun, don’t be scared to try it!).
The tomato sauce can be made with whole, peeled tomatoes or canned tomatoes; a food processor or an immersion blender is useful for making the sauce too.
The best way to approach this recipe is in three parts. Even though this is a lasagna sans pasta, it is still true to its layered form: Roasted eggplants, saffron risotto, homemade tomato sauce, and your cheeses. You won’t be disappointed.
To roast the eggplant, simply wash, slice, and distribute them on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil on both sides, just enough to roast evenly. Slide them in the oven at 400º for about 15 minutes until they are browned but not burnt. If some of them do happen to burn (those sneaky oven hot spots are a pain, aren’t they?), just get some greek yoghurt out and eat them as chips. See, all is not lost! Set the browned ones aside to cool for lasagna layering.
The saffron risotto is such a delight to make. Stirring and tossing the risotto until it is fluffy and changes to that golden hue may well induce philosophizing on how great life is.
We all know butter makes everything better, so heat about a tablespoon of butter and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Then add 3/4 of minced onion and let it dance around until soft and translucent. At this point add the rice and sauté until it turns opaque–right at the point before it starts toasting–then incorporate the saffron and add the white wine! This will deglaze the pan and take care of anything beginning to stick to the bottom. The wine should reduce down for about a minute, then you can add the water. Cover and cook the rice through for about 15 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, season with salt to taste.
The tomato sauce is my own experiment, and I have found that sage is magic in any tomato sauce, so that is my herb of choice. If you have another favorite, such as basil or oregano then go for it–again, this is your kitchen, do what makes you feel good. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, use crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce depending on how thick you desire your end product.
In a saucepan, sauté the remaining 1/4 of the minced onion and a couple cloves of minced garlic in olive oil. When that begins to smell fragrant, add the sage and fry that up as well–this releases the flavor of the herb. Then you add in your tomatoes, salt, and pepper and stir until combined. Simmer until it becomes the consistency you want, season and adjust to taste, and now you have a great tomato sauce!
Finally, you layer all of these ingredients together: bottom layer sauce, then saffron risotto, then mozzarella, then eggplant, and parmesan, then repeat until you run out of ingredients. I used a 9×13 glass baking pan and repeated the layers twice. Cook in a 400º oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Let it set for about 10 minutes before serving.
I served it in bowls, but if it sets up nicely you can try to plate it. In any case, seconds are truly irresistible.
Go forth and create, dear food-lovers, it was a pleasure to have you in my kitchen! Bon appétit!


  1. Do you post the recipe anywhere?

    1. Yes! Click on the link that says "Inside the Kitchen Eggplant Lasagna with Saffron" It will take you to the recipe and article on Insider Louisville.