That’s right, vegan, good for you, low calorie, healthy, comforting and cosy eggplant parmesan. . . did I miss any adjectives to describe this? Oh yeah, and deliciously dreamy, creamy and saucy without all the heavy and hard to digest dairy! This willmake you say oh my God and will guaranteed, knock anyone’s socks off, vegan or not!
I decided to try my hand at making an Italian classic, which if you are wondering, is not from the area where I live, but is instead from the south, where lots of veggies are eaten . . . fried. In its original version the eggplant may or may not get salted first to remove the excess moisture and any bitterness, they are then pan fried in olive oil, then they are layered with ‘béchamel’ sauce (flour, butter and milk) and tomato sauce (pomodoro passato – cooked tomato run through a sieve) and then topped off with mozzarella. I had the ‘original’ in Sicily years ago on vacation, and it honestly doesn’t stick out as a highlight from the trip, strangely it was the jellyfish sting that seems to be burned into my mind (and arm at the time).
This recipe is pain free though, thank gosh, but I do warn you, it is more of a weekend sort of recipe as it does take a bit of time and there are a few steps involved in it, but it is worth it, especially if you can get your kids to eat veggies this way. My two-year-old son loves this and I’ve made it for him a number of times. And this deserves a pat on the back considering my husband, Italian (from the north, though), prefers this version over the original! As you can see here, it was a hit in my house and Sebastian couldn’t wait for picture time to be over so he could dig in, which he did as I was taking pictures . . .
There are several option to this recipe depending on how low calorie or low fat, or even nut free you want it to be. You can forgo the shallow frying of the eggplant and opt for baking them instead. You can also leave out the cashews from the sauce and just go with a cauliflower sauce if you want to make it lighter or if you have nut allergies. It will still be incredible, just not as creamy and cheese-like.
However you decide to make though, make sure you have a good bottle of wine, maybe some brushchetta (pronounced brew-ske-ta, not sh!:)) while the eggplant’s in the oven and you’re waiting, and of course the right Italian attitude for this, which is to take it easy, have a looong lunch, finish it with coffee, after dinner ‘digestive’ drinks (i.e. lemoncello or grappa) and mangia, mangia, and mangia some more! Buon appetito!
O-M-G Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Yield: serves about 4
4-5 large eggplants
1 cup soaked cashews
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 cup vegetable broth + enough to cover and boil the cauliflower in
1 clove of garlic
about 1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste
good tomato sauce
about 1 cup panko, or regular bread crumbs
any fresh herbs you like, I went with oregano and rosemary.
1. Slice your eggplants and heat a bit of olive oil in a large frying pan (on medium heat). You really don’t need to use much oil for this, you can just drizzle a bit over the eggplant if you like. Cook on each side until the color has changed and they are fork tender. You will have to do this in batches and set them aside as you go (this is the longest part to the recipe). (If you are taking the light, baked route, pop your sliced eggplant in the preheated oven and leave to cook for about 10 minutes on each side).
2. In the meantime boil you cauliflower in the vegetable broth until fork tender as well. Save the broth, we will use this to make the béchamel sauce.
3. Toss into a high-speed blender the cashews, cauliflower, 1 cup of vegetable broth, nutmeg and garlic, and blend until creamy and smooth (only about a minute or less). Taste to see if you need to add salt or adjust any seasoning, add in pepper if you like as well. (If you are going for the nut-free version you may need to use less broth. Start with 1/2 cup and increase from there until you have a creamy, gravy like consistency – it will thicken up as it cooks.)
4. Finely chop up your fresh herbs (I used 2 sprigs of each, rosemary and oregano) and toss with bread crumbs.
5. Start with the eggplant and spoon on the cauliflower sauce or tomato, alternating with each layer of eggplant. Top off with the bread crumb mixture and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top before putting it in the oven. Bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crispy on top. Everything else is already cooked, so it is a matter of heating it all thoroughly and getting the crunch on top, so you really only need about 10-15 minutes in the oven at about 350. The longer you bake it, the more the flavors meld together though, so it is your call!