Tag Archives: eggplant

Freedom from Oil: Grilled Summer Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Over the weekend Bruce and I visited a vegan cafe that we came across in the early days of our plant-based journey. I recalled that we were pleased with the food so we decided to fuel up there before a wine-tasting adventure in southern New Jersey. I figured the roasted vegetable wrap would be a good choice. It wasn’t. As soon as I unwrapped the wrap it was like the flood gates opened up on my plate — and the flood was mostly oil. I picked at the vegetables hoping to rescue them from the oil spill that left them tasteless and greasy. From the time we left the cafe to our arrival at the first winery our conversation turned to America’s dependence on oil. Olive oil to be specific. It’s everywhere; in restaurant food, in family recipes, on cooking shows. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that it’s a “good” oil. Olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods and, contrary to popular belief, it may not be “good” for your heart as we once thought. But don’t take my word for it. This article and video from Forks Over Knives is an excellent (and brief) explanation. Some people feel that oil is needed to help brown food, like roasted vegetables. I can tell you that those “roasted” vegetables in my wrap were not brown at all. I’ve been preparing whole food, plant based food for five years now and I’ve learned to brown vegetables without the use of oil. Just the day before our outing I grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash that came out flavorful and browned — and the only oil I used was a coating of non-stick spray on the grill grates. (I guess that’s what I had in mind when I ordered my wrap.) If you feel that grilled vegetables need a little something, try some fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and herbs. I made a light dressing for the zucchini and yellow squash that lets their delicate flavor shine through. You can serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer, as an add-in to a salad, in a sandwich or over your favorite grain. Treat yourself to a good non-stick skillet and try using a few tablespoons of water or broth when you want to brown vegetables. If you’re not ready to eliminate oil completely you can re-train yourself by first measuring the oil then spreading with a paper towel. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to reducing your dependence on oil. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Summer Squash

a few zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 3/8″ thick slices

Heat an outdoor grill on high heat. Lightly coat the grates with non-stick spray. Place the zucchini slices directly on the grates. Close the cover and grill until the squash is browned, then turn over and brown the second side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your grill is. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables are browning too fast. Remove from grill and arrange squash on a serving plate, drizzling the dressing on each layer. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Honey Summer Savory Dressing

½ cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. honey or agave
fresh summer savory to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over grilled vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

10 Aug 2017

My Inconvenient Truth: ELT (Eggplant, Tomato & Lettuce)

Egglant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich

I think about the cost of convenience every day. Whether it’s preparing a healthy plant-based meal at home or eating at a vegan restaurant, the cost of convenience is apparent. I could use frozen vegetables to make meal preparation easier and less expensive, but I prefer to use fresh vegetables because they have a better taste and texture. While going out to eat is convenient, there is a price to pay in the form of limited choices and the presence of added oil and salt. I was reminded of this “inconvenient truth” last weekend as Bruce and I had lunch at a  “destination” vegan restaurant. (I use the term “destination” when we plan an entire outing around a restaurant.) Since we traveled about an hour to get there I wanted to make the most of our trip and decided to sample a few things on the menu. We ordered jackfruit stuffed mushrooms and oyster mushrooms in scampi sauce for appetizers. I had a French dip portobello mushroom sandwich and Bruce had an ELT (eggplant, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Each stuffed mushroom had a healthy dollop of vegan tartar sauce which I could tell contained oil. The scampi sauce was made with oil and/or vegan butter. The French dip had melted vegan mozzarella (oil), the ELT had fried eggplant and vegan mayo (more oil) and both sandwiches were served with a side of fries. The truth is we don’t eat oil anymore, and when we do it doesn’t sit right with us. I guess that’s the price we pay for the convenience of eating out. Anyway, the ELT was quite tasty and I was impelled to come up with an oil-free version at home. I made the eggplant by dipping the slices in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas), coating them with bread crumbs, then baking in the oven. Instead of vegan mayonnaise I mashed up an avocado with some lemon juice and a pinch of black salt. Wanting to keep it as close to a traditional BLT, I built the sandwich by spreading a layer of avocado “mayo” on toasted white bread then loading it up with the breaded eggplant, juicy tomato slices and crisp lettuce. The crispy coating on the eggplant gives the sandwich a crunchy mouth-feel that’s similar to bacon and the avocado lends a mayo-like creaminess — without the use of oil. (A few days later I re-crisped the left over eggplant in an air fryer which gave them more of a bacon mouth feel.) Well worth the effort. The truth is that, at times, it may be inconvenient to follow a plant-based diet, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for tasty food that’s wholesome and healthy. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

ELT (Eggplant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches)

Eggplant:

1 small eggplant (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/4 inch slices
½ cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste
½ cup or more of aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, paprika, brown sugar, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip eggplant slices in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

To make eggplant in an air fryer:

Place about 8 slices of eggplant in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the slices and continue cooking until browned.
For the Avocado “Mayo”:

1 ripe avocado
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of black salt (or regular table salt)

For the Sandwiches:

Your favorite sandwich bread
Sliced tomatoes
Lettuce

Toast two slices of bread. Spread some avocado “mayo” on one slice, then arrange four slices of eggplant, two or three slices of tomatoes and some lettuce.

23 May 2017

Stay-at-home Romantic: Moroccan Eggplant Spread

Zalouk

When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday and instead of making reservations you would rather make your own quiet celebration at home, you just might be a “stay-at-home” romantic. With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy this make-ahead, Mediterranean-inspired meal that will still taste fresh with a minimal amount of time spent cooking on Valentine’s Day. Today’s recipe is for Zalouk, a delectable spread made with eggplant, tomatoes and exotic Moroccan seasonings. I was introduced to Zalouk a few weeks ago at a nearby restaurant. Their version is tasty, but it contains quite a bit of olive oil. I wanted to come up with a version that is virtually fat free. I put a light coating of olive oil in a non-stick skillet before adding the eggplant and tomatoes, but you can add more olive oil if desired. You can serve it warm or at room temperature. My recommendation for an effortless Valentine’s Day meal that looks and tastes like you were cooking all day is to make the Zalouk and my Turkish Lentil Soup a few days ahead of time. Prepare this refreshing Fennel Salad right before dinner and round out the meal with warm pita wedges or a loaf of crusty Italian bread. Even if you don’t leave room for dessert, these miniature Pistachio Date Nests and a glass of bubbly are a sweet way to wind down your evening. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Morrocan Eggplant Spread (Zaalouk)

(makes about 2 cups)

Olive oil (optional)
1 large eggplant, skinned and diced
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Fresh lemon juice

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil.) Add eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and coriander. Cook until eggplant and tomatoes are mushy and thickened, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir in desired amount of lemon juice. Serve warm or cold, as a side, a dip or a spread.

12 Feb 2017

Simply Special: Grilled Vegetable Torte

Grilled Vegetable Torte

Grilled Vegetable Torte

Bruce and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary over the weekend. We tried, once again, (and unsuccessfully, again) to get a reservation at Vedge in Philadelphia. It’s the only restaurant with plant-based fare within an hour that is worthy of such a special occasion. So I wanted to make something special for our anniversary dinner. I recalled a layered vegetable and hummus cake on Facebook and used that concept for this Grilled Vegetable Torte. I wanted the torte to reflect my Italian heritage and went with grilled eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers and tomatoes. Instead of hummus, I made a “ricotta” using tofu, raw cashews and pesto. The “ricotta” acts like mortar to hold everything together. A whole wheat tortilla was placed on the bottom to make it easier to lift out the slices when it came time for serving. I baked the stem of the eggplant on top of the torte for a little drama. After 40 minutes in the oven, the torte came out perfectly cooked and picture perfect. It’s impressive enough for a special occasion yet easy enough to make for a weekend dinner. You could serve it as a first course for a holiday meal or enjoy it all week long sandwiched between some Italian bread. This simple vegetable torte can make any occasion a special one. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Vegetable Torte

16 oz. extra firm tofu
2 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 oz. spinach or Swiss chard, wilted and squeezed
A few tablespoons of pesto

2 red bell peppers
1 eggplant, ¼” sliced
1 zucchini, ¼” sliced
3 portobella mushroom caps, left whole

2 to 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

8” tortilla

Place tofu, cashews, lemon juice, spinach and pesto in food processor and process until combined. The mixture does not have to be smooth. Set aside. (You can make this the day before.)

Set outdoor grill to high. Place red peppers on grill and cook until charred on all sides, turning as one side is done. Place in brown paper bag to soften skins. When cool, remove skin, seeds and stem and slice into strips. Set aside.

Lower grill temperature to medium. Grill eggplants and zucchini until grill marks appear on both sides. Grill mushroom caps until tender with grill marks. Slice mushrooms thinly.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Wrap the bottom of an 8″ spring form pan with aluminum foil (in case of any leakage). Place an 8” tortilla in bottom of 8” spring form pan. Spread a thin layer of tofu-cashew mixture on top of tortilla, then layer as follows: eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes. Repeat from tofu-cashew mixture, ending with a top layer of tomatoes.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. If tomatoes do not brown, place under broiler for a few minutes. Let set until room temperature before removing sides of spring form pan. Serve at room temperature.

02 Aug 2016

Mangia! Grilled Eggplant Giambotta with Pignoli Parmesan

Eggplant Giambotta

Eggplant Giambotta

Giambotta is an Italian vegetable stew. My mother and grandmother used to make it with potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions and anything else they had on hand. I got the idea for my Grilled Eggplant Giambotta from a spicy hot Indian dish called Baingan Bhartha, which is made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes and a host of aromatics and served over rice. Italian spices are much more mellow than those used in Indian food so I often wondered if I could make this dish using Italian seasonings and still have the same level of spice that the Indian version has. I grilled the eggplants on the barbeque grill, then made a chunky sauce with plum tomatoes, onions and garlic. I seasoned it with ground fennel, crushed red pepper and a combination of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram and let it all cook down to a thick and saucy stew. Since we eat so much rice, I opted to serve the Giambotta on a bed of orzo and topped it off with a sprinkling of Pignoli Parmesan. You can skip the orzo and enjoy it with a few slices (or an entire loaf) of Italian bread. This Eggplant Giambotta is so full of goodness that you can “mangiare a proprio piacimento”, which means “eat to your heart’s content”. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Eggplant Giambotta with Pignoli Parmesan

8 plum tomatoes (or 1 can Italian plum tomatoes)
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in spice grinder
1 to 2 tablespoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

cooked pasta, such as orzo

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Using a knife, score an “x” into the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in water long enough for skin to soften and peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes. Place in a colander and when cool enough to handle, remove skins. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until chunky.

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1” thick slices. Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. (It’s not necessary to coat the grates with oil, but you may do so if you like.) Place eggplants on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Remove to cutting board and cut slices into quarters or sixths. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until they start to brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add garlic and ground fennel and cook another minute. Add remaining ingredients and cook tomatoes until start to thicken. Add eggplants and continue to cook until desired tenderness (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle top with Pignoli Parmesan. Remove from heat and serve over rice or pasta. Top with Pignoli Parmesan.

Pignoli Parmesan

¾ cup pignoli nuts
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon lactic acid or lemon juice

Place all ingredients in mini-chopper and process until grainy. Be careful not to over process into a butter.

15 Jul 2016

Sunday Dinner Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parmigiana

Sunday dinner was a religion in my family. In their heyday, my grandmother and mother made the best eggplant parmigiana, hands down. If you don’t believe me, ask any one of my cousins. I was lucky to be able to learn from two of the best home cooks that ever walked this earth and this recipe was left in my hands. I’ve been reluctant to make eggplant parmigiana for a few reasons:

 

One. We would dip the eggplant slices in egg, then coat them with bread crumbs.

Two. The coated slices were then fried in oil.

Three. The slices were layered with tomato sauce (which is okay), and mozzarella (which is not okay).

How could I leave out the eggs, oil and mozzarella yet still stay true to the family recipe and that awesome eggplant parmigiana taste? It wasn’t until I discovered two things: Aquafaba and The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook.

Aquafaba is the liquid that results from cooking chickpeas and beans. There’s a facebook group dedicated to Aquafaba recipes. The members of the group experiment and share recipes (mostly baked goods) using aquafaba. The recipes on this site look amazing. For this recipe, I used the aquafaba instead of egg to coat the eggplant slices and it worked beautifully.

Breaded Eggplant

Breaded Eggplant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the next amazing discovery is The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook. I bought this book a few months ago. I made a few cheeses, but made the mistake of using virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil giving the cheese a strong coconut taste. I put the book away until this morning. I made a batch of non-dairy mozzarella using the refined coconut oil this time. It took about 15 minutes to make and six hours to set up in the fridge. I couldn’t believe my eyes or mouth! It looks, feels, shreds, slices, and tastes like mozzarella. Look, I’m from Brooklyn, so I know good mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a Brooklyn cheese store mozzarella, but it’s the best non-dairy mozzarella I’ve had in three years.

Non-Dairy Evolution Mozzarella

Non-Dairy Evolution Mozzarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to great eggplant parmigiana is in the layering: sauce, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and repeat. It’s no secret that my family loves to cook and loves to eat. And we never kept our recipes secret either. So I’m happy to share my family’s recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana; still made with love, but not with eggs or dairy. Dinner’s at 2:00 on Sunday in my house. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Eggplant Parmagiana

Aquafaba is the liquid that chickpeas and beans are cooked in. This recipe uses the liquid from canned chickpeas.

2 small eggplants (about 2 lbs. total), thinly sliced
¼ cup Aquafaba (see notes)
¼ tsp. black salt
1/8 tsp. turmeric
Breadcrumbs (see notes)
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley

2 quarts of marinara sauce
2 Tablespoons dried oregano

8 oz. plant-based mozzarella, thinly sliced
(I use the mozzarella recipe from The Non-Dairy Evolution)

Notes: The amount of aquafaba and breadcrumbs can vary depending on how many slices of eggplant you get and how thickly you coat them. Start with 1/4 cup aquafaba and ½ cup of breadcrumbs and add more as you go along.

Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Stir together aquafaba, black salt and turmeric. Season breadcrumbs with garlic powder, pepper and parsley. Drip eggplant slices in aquafaba “egg”, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack for about 10 minutes per side. Depending on your oven, you might have to adjust the baking time and temperature, so keep an eye of them. Remove from oven and let cool.

To assemble:

Mix marinara with oregano. Cover the bottom of an 8” square baking dish with sauce, then a layer of eggplants, more sauce, then about one-half of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, ending with a layer of sauce. Place in 350 degree oven until sauce “cooks” in to the eggplant, about 45 minutes. Add a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on top and place in oven for another five minutes. Remove and cool slightly before serving.

 

 

 

09 Aug 2015

Putting It All Together: Grilled Baby Eggplant with Almond Cheese

Grilled Eggplant with Almond CheeseHopefully by now you have a few wheels of almond cheese under your belt and have been enjoying it on crackers and in sandwiches. All you need to do tonight is grill a few baby eggplants, slather on some marinara and sprinkle a few crumbles of Raw Almond Cheese on top. Okay, if the almond cheese is a bit of a stretch, you can try a store-bought vegan cheese or simply leave it off.  Serve the eggplants alongside Orzo Buerre Blanc and you’ll have a meal that will impress your family and friends. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Grilled Baby Eggplant with Almond Cheese

  • About 10 baby eggplants, sliced in half from stem to blossom end
  • ½ wheel of almond cheese
  • ½ cup marinara sauce

Heat grill on high, then lower to medium. Coat grates with non-stick spray. Place eggplants on grill, cut side down. Grill until light brown, then flip and grill skin side until light brown. Spoon a small amount of marinara on cut side of eggplant, then crumble almond cheese on top. Cover and grill another 3 minutes.

22 Jul 2015

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