Eggplant “Parmesan”

I’ve been so busy cooking and baking, but have not been blogging!  Shame on me!

We had company last night, and I decided to make eggplant parmesan.  I’ve made this recipe before, and it came out really tasty.  And eggplant is in season!  So all the more reason to make it now that it’s fresh.  As a kid, I never really liked eggplant, but I think it was because it wasn’t made correctly.  I’ve found that its very important to salt the eggplant and allow to sit for a while before actually using it.  This takes the bitterness out of the veggie and brings out the flavor.  Some fun facts about eggplant:

  • Botanically speaking, eggplant is actually a berry, not a vegetable.
  • Eggplant is a close relative to the tobacco plant.
  • The eggplant seeds are actually what makes it bitter.  The seeds contain nicotine.
  • On average, 20 pounds of eggplant contains the same amount of nicotine as one cigarette.
  • To remove the bitter flavor, salt the eggplant slices, allow them to sit, then rinse and pat dry before cooking.
  • Eggplant skin is edible, so there’s no reason to peel it.
  • Much like avocado, eggplant flesh will oxidize quickly once it is exposed to the air.
  • Although it hasn’t been proven, eggplant is suggested to treat high blood cholesterol.
  • Eggplant helps to block the formation of free radicals in the body.
  • Eggplant is high in folic acid and potassium.
  • Eggplant is high in histamines, which can cause allergic reactions in a small percentage of people, but this risk diminishes after cooking it.

So, I’ve found that eggplant is awesome.  And since I found a yummy and healthy way to prepare it, I’m extra excited!  I used a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

Some notes from my experience of cooking this dish:

  • I used vegan soy parmesan when putting together the casserole; I might try the ground almonds in place of it the next time I make the dish.
  • I used all fresh oregano and basil from my herb garden.
  • I made an extra slice of toast because I wanted to add some to the top of the dish as an extra “crunch”.  2 just didn’t seem like enough.
  • The “cheese sauce” tastes kind of bland when you first mix it up, but it’s delicious in the final product when it comes out of the oven!
  • Because there are three parts to this recipe (making the tomato sauce, making the cheese sauce, then putting everything together for the casserole), its easy to think this recipe will take forever.  However, it’s really not all that bad.  I suppose if you were really in a hurry, you could substitute jar pasta sauce instead of making your own.  But the tomato sauce in this recipe is incredible.  If you have the extra few minutes, make it!!!
  • I always end up with a few extra slices of eggplant that don’t fit into the baking dish.  This time, we just ended up putting them on a veggie pizza.  Or you could freeze them and throw them in a soup at a later date.
  • I find that this recipe serves about 6 rather than 4.

Vegan Eggplant “Parmesan” (adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen blog)
Serves about 4

1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 pieces of whole grain bread, toasted and made into breadcrumbs
2-3 tbsp. soy parmesan (or ground almonds)
fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
olive oil spray

Tomato Sauce:

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp. tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

“Cheese” Sauce:

1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp. cashew butter or tahini
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. corn starch

Salt the eggplant slices and put them in a colander to drain.

Prepare the tomato sauce by sautéing the onion in a non-stick saucepan until it becomes translucent (you may use a little water if you like). Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute. Add the remaining tomato sauce ingredients, and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Prepare the cheese sauce: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Blend again right before using to make sure that the ingredients haven’t separated.

Rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry with paper towels. Spray a baking sheet lightly with olive oil and place the slices on it (you may have to do this in two batches). Spray the tops lightly and place under the broiler. Watch carefully, and remove when the slices start to brown, about 3 minutes.

Assemble the casserole: Preheat the oven to 350. Spray or wipe an 8×8-inch non-metal baking dish with a small bit of olive oil. Place half of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish, edges overlapping. Sprinkle with half the breadcrumbs. Spoon half the tomato sauce and pour half the cheese sauce over the breadcrumbs and sprinkle lightly with soy parmesan. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients (reserving some bread crumbs for on top, as mentioned above). Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until slightly browned on top. Sprinkle with fresh basil just before serving. Serves 4.

Each serving provides approximately: 238 Calories (kcal); 9g Total Fat; (30% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 477mg Sodium; 8g Fiber. (These figures, especially fat and sodium, vary drastically depending on the exact ingredients you use.)

The Verdict

  • 5 out of 5 stars:  This meal is one of my personal favorites.  I was comfortable enough to make this for guests, and they seemed to like it too!  It’s one of those wonderful comfort foods, too.

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