Gluten-Free Vegan Eggplant Parm
I always thought eggplant parm has to be baked....but then I had one that wasnt? And not just like, while at dinner at a friends place who swears their celiac but you just watched eat a bunch of bread last week? Like at an italian restaurant. I mean, I wanted that fried stuff, the crispy crunchy good stuff; but got this. Then I had it was like "damn I was quick to judge" (cue me kissing a plate and saying sorry to it while at dinner) I actually like the taste of eggplant, so maybe the panko is more like a dressed up version. Panko is the new pinky's up energy.
Eating this made me kind of sad but only because with each bite I knew it was closer to total annihilation. Which is exactly why I owed it to myself to make it again and again at every opportunity. This thing easily serves four, but good luck wanting to share it.
Serve it with a salad, or not, or like a nice herb sauce (*cough* walnut herb salsa verde that's on this website *cough*). definitely serve it with a smile, but also - sometimes it just feels nice to have a good cry.
1KG of eggplant, washed
1 can of tomato
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 head of fennel, diced
2 cups of cheese (i'm using violife mozza)
salt and pepper
an oven safe baking dish ( a 3litre rectangle or 8" square should do the trick)
1. pre-heat your oven to 450f. slice eggplant(s) into thin-ish (1/4") rounds in a metal mixing bowl, cover it all with salt and let it sit at room temperature while you take care of the rest of things. ** call me crazy, but I don't rinse the eggplant after they are salted. I think it helps to season the entire dish - but choose your own adventure on this and let me know how it turns out**
2. on medium heat in a pot, add oil, onion, garlic & fennel. Add a pinch of salt to draw moisture and stir. Cook until soft.
3. Add in red pepper and continue to cook out. Then add in canned tomatoes, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer (less bubbles!). Let it reduce by about a 1/4 (it should still be loose and have a bit of liquid before you bake it).
4. In your baking dish, add enough sauce to cover the bottom and start to add rounds of eggplant (they can be cute and touching) to fill the dish. Then add a layer of sauce, followed by cheese, followed by a new layer of eggplant. Continue to do this until all the cheese, eggplant and sauce is gone (feel free to add spinach, basil, legumes or whatever you fantastic lil heart desires).
5. Pop eggplant in the oven for about 20-30 minutes (if it stars to brown early you can either place it on a lower rack, or cover with tinfoil) until hot in the centre - give it a little poke with the knife, it it comes out melted steel then it's ready to come out.