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The interest in all things gluten-free helped get me thinking about eggplant lasagna, in which the eggplant takes the place of pasta.

Eggplants — also known as aubergines — come in various colors and shapes and sizes, but they all have lots of potassium and calcium not found in pasta. Plus, eggplant (provided you don’t deep-fry it) is low in calories, so those watching their waistlines can enjoy lasagna without guilt.

Eggplants hail from India and China, but became very popular throughout Europe and Africa by the 17th century. They are cultivated around the world and used in a variety of dishes such as Malaysian or Thai curries, Balkan moussaka and Italian Melanzane alla Parmigiani (aubergine baked with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese).

The Internet is full of health claims for eggplant. Chinese medicine promotes eggplant for blood disorders. Those sensitive to foods in the nightshade family — potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant — may want to use a pasta noodle instead of the eggplant slices in this recipe.

Here is my favorite way to make Eggplant Lasagna. It is gluten-free and low-calorie. The big difference between this and most recipes is that pesto is used instead of a tomato sauce. The lasagna can be made with ground beef or turkey (1 pound sauteed, then sprinkled on the eggplant slices) or without.

Betty Wedman-St. Louis is a licensed nutritionist who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. betty-wedman-stlouis.com.

Eggplant Lasagna

1 pound eggplant

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4cup prepared basil pesto or fresh (recipe below)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into slices

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil. Place in skillet and heat over medium heat until soft. Remove from skillet and place in oiled 9-inch-square baking dish. Spread on pesto sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese slices. Add red pepper slices. Repeat layering with eggplant slices, pesto sauce and red pepper slices. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 305 calories; 24 g fat (10 g saturated fat; 71 percent calories from fat); 8 g carbohydrates; 43 mg cholesterol; 153 mg sodium; 13 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Pesto

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. May be refrigerated or frozen.

Per serving (per 1 tablespoon): 43 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 84 percent calories from fat); 0.5 g carbohydrates; 1 mg cholesterol; 23 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 0.2 g fiber.

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