Berenjena, or eggplant, is an important component in Puerto Rican cooking. In Nuyorican cuisine we’ve had it since I can remember. I also recall that eggplant is something you either love or hate like let’s say, peanut butter. In my family we love it; and prepare it in myriad ways. The most common being breaded and fried eggplant slices that we serve with fish and/or rice. Thus I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to prepare this great vegetable. Now, we are all familiar with the Italian dish, lasagna; and moussaka, the Greek version that also uses copious amounts of eggplant. There is another way of preparing it—and this is the Tuscan version. I’ve come to love this dish. It could be called Italian comfort food. It’s layered eggplant combined with all the wonderful flavors of the Mediterranean.
The one difference in this dish is that it calls for Herbes de Provence; which is simply a mix of dried herbs found in the province of Provence, in southern France. The mixture usually contains savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. For the American market they usually add lavender leaves (which is not an herb found in traditional southern French cooking). If you don’t have or don’t want to use Herbes de Provence, you can substitute regular Italian seasoning. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this hearty vegetarian entrée.
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon garlic powder
5 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (or you can use your favorite cheese mix, grated)
1 7-ounce jar roasted peppers
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or can substitute Italian seasoning)
1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Preheat oven to broil. Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet large enough to hold in a single layer. Brush the eggplant slices on each side with the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder.
2. Broil eggplant for 3-4 minutes. Remove eggplant and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375.
3. In a baking dish (I prefer cast iron), layer half the eggplant, all the roasted peppers, half of the tomato sauce, a generous sprinkling of Herbes de Provence and all of the cheddar cheese. Top with the remaining eggplant and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
4. Put back in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Yield: 4 servings.