So, I always thought of these cute little purple vegetables as eggplants. Yes, the name is weird. They have nothing to do with eggs. But that’s what they’re called in ‘Murica! I didn’t even know that anyone in the English language called them differently until learning French. Aubergine? Then I realized that in British English, they say the same thing. Aubergines. Also, those who speak British English say courgette for zucchini. (The Frenchies do, too.) I was so lost.
I’ll just use both words in the title of this recipe, to be safe!
When I lived in Lille, I would usually end up buying my vegetables at the big grocery store called Carrefour. I could never find eggplants that came from France. Usually they were shipped in from Spain. You can understand my excitement when we started going to the farmers market in Hazebrouck and I found eggplants – aubergines? – that were grown 12 kilometers from my new house! Merci à la Ferme des Mions!
Tonight, since I had two made-in-France eggplants in the fridge and M’s friend was coming over to rehearse for their Irish music group (I’ll say more about that another time), I decided to whip up an eggplant lasagna for everyone. Last year, I made Jamie Oliver’s aubergine lasagne and became obsessed. Lasagne?! Lasagna. Is this another British vs. American English thing? I don’t even know anymore.
I decided to spice things up a little bit and added my twist to his recipe. I added a layer of béchamel as well as some chopped rainbow swiss chard to the tomato sauce. Instead of cheddar, I went with some freshly grated Comté. (Have you noticed my obsession with Comté cheese yet?) It may look like a long list of ingredients, but most of this stuff is usually in the pantry or fridge.
The original recipe for the aubergine lasagne (is that English?) is by Jamie Oliver. The recipe for the béchamel sauce comes from Marmiton, a cooking website in France.
Here’s what you need:
- 2 eggplants / aubergines
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked (or 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 (14 ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 splash balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3 cups rainbow swiss chard, thinly sliced (or baby spinach)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Comté… or whatever you prefer!)
- 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 6-8 no-boil lasagna sheets
Here’s what to do:
- Cut the tips off of the eggplants and steam them whole for 30 minutes. Scoop the insides out (tossing out the skin) and chop them up roughly. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the eggplant, garlic, cayenne, and thyme and sauté for about 10 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes to the pan and break them up with a wooden spoon. Add the balsamic vinegar and basil, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add in the rainbow swiss chard and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, until sauce is reduced and chard is wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, mix the butter and flour together. Heat the milk separately (in a saucepan or in the microwave) until it’s just boiling, then add to the butter and flour mixture, whisking all of the elements together. Place in the microwave and heat for 1 minute on normal power. When it comes out of the microwave, the mixture should be thicker. Season with salt and pepper.
- In an 8×8 baking dish, spoon a layer of the tomato sauce, then the béchamel, then add a bit of cheese, then lay down the lasagna sheets. Continue adding layers, ending with a layer of tomato sauce, and top with remaining cheese.
- Bake at 400°F / 200°C for 25 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
This recipe makes enough for about 4 servings, and is best enjoyed with a side of Irish music. (For me, at least!)