Eggplant and chicken marinara

This March 22, 2018 photo shows eggplant and chicken marinara in Bethesda, Md. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP)This March 22, 2018 photo shows eggplant and chicken marinara in Bethesda, Md. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP)

Servings: 6

Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes

4 small eggplants (“baby” or “Japanese” eggplant at the grocery store)

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast

2 cups prepared marinara sauce (no sugar added)

3/4 cup shredded Italian cheese (half mozzarella; half parmesan), divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Fresh basil for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Rub 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over all the eggplants, prick once or twice each with a fork, and roast them on a baking sheet until soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool 15-30 minutes.

Once cool enough to handle, slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh. Select the 6 prettiest eggplant skin halves for stuffing and set aside. Roughly chop the eggplant flesh into cubes (don’t worry if it’s “pulpy” from roasting and doesn’t hold a cube shape.)

In a large saute pan, cook the diced onion, salt and pepper in the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the eggplant flesh, garlic and dried herbs and cook another 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir, allowing most to evaporate over a minute or two, and then remove from heat.

Stir in the cooked rice, the chicken, and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Taste the filling for seasoning and adjust if needed. Gently spoon the filling into the reserved 6 eggplant skin halves. Pour the marinara sauce into the large saucepan (wipe out any remaining filling first, if needed). Place the filled eggplant skins gently on top of the sauce and top with remaining shredded cheese.

Place the saucepan in the oven and bake until sauce and filling are hot and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve with fresh basil, if desired.

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.

Melissa d’Arabian, Associated Press