Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Rocket & Roses Baked Eggplant with Marinara Sauce (GF)

Rocket & Roses HQ Play List:

Chely Wright ~ For The Long Run
Gina Sicilla ~ Addicted
The Band Perry ~ Lasso
Scissor Sisters ~ Filthy/Gorgeous
Joan Jett ~ Don't Abuse Me
R.E.M ~ Nightswimming
Pearl Jam ~ Rearviewmirror
Queens of the Stone Age ~ I Sat By The Ocean
Orianti ~ Shut Up And Kiss Me
Santana ~ Adouma
Lissie ~ Oh Mississippi
Billy Joel ~ Tell Her About It
Jacqueline Du Pre ~ Sicilienne
Europe ~ Roll With You

In my vegetarian days..gosh they seem so long ago was one of those vegetables that I would groan when served. It was always woody or chewy or a combination of both. It was up there with mushrooms, avocado and tofu for me...I was convinced I would never enjoy any of them. Ever! Nowadays I can enjoy tofu in its many forms as long as its not cold lumps of the white stuff...I enjoy it made into frittatas, omelette's, Spanish omelette and many other ways. Only this week I found a great recipe for enjoying avocado!! Hooray! Sadly I am still at odds with mushrooms...I don't enjoy the taste or texture so I fear that one is doomed. I can just about tolerate them thinly (I mean wafer thin sliced...see through!...) sliced in something with huge flavours. Eggplant or aubergine as they are known in England, I can enjoy them as long as they are in small cubes when in a stew...or melt in your mouth tender when stuffed. If there is a hint of toughness or chewiness I'm outta here. lol.

Back in the day my good friend Michael and his lovely husband Tim took on the mission of making me find my aubergine love. Michael is from a strong Italian/American family and was taught all the family's secret recipes and one being Eggplant Parmesan. He patiently reassured me it was vegetarian and that I would love it. One evening I sat at their dining table as Michael put the finishing touches to his heart sinking with the thoughts of "Oh god what if I really don't like it..." because he had poured love into every step. I had to admit though it smelt so good when it was baking in the oven. Finally we sat down to eat and I overloaded my plate with salad so that my piece of eggplant would be a small (What a brat!! lol) Tim cut my serving and placed it on my plate and he and Michael did the one thing I really didn't need...they waited for me to take my first mouthful...(I hate people watching me eat..)..I told them to get their own plated up and I would wait for them. As they faked busy I sat staring at my smelt divine...but it was still eggplant. I picked up my knife and fork and carefully cut off a small piece and brought it to my lips and then went for it. I bit into the most delicate and beautifully flavoured thing I had ever had cooked for me. I actually groaned with pleasure as I ate and cut my next piece. Michael never stopped grinning all night and even called his Mom back home and reported in that it had been a huge success. Cute! I never ate anything else when dining at their home from then on. lol. I wasn't complaining because it was nice to be cooked for. Over the years I have tried many other Eggplant Parmesans and never had one to equal it. I am always disappointed. I am a one Eggplant Parmesan girl...Michael's and always will be. Then I became vegan and the point was moot. Of all the cheeses from back in the day Parmesan is the only one I miss because it was sharp in flavour and never went gloopy or fatty. And I always bought the veggie option. Recently they have started to sell vegan Parmesan in our health food shop and although its sharp...its strong and I mean strong...1 tsp of the stuff is enough to overpower and destroy a dish made for 8! It's ok but it's not great.

I have been craving Michael's food of late. Maybe because it was the ultimate comfort food or because its that time of year...I really don't know but it inspired me to try and make something in honour of that lovely evening many years ago. So this ones for you Michael..Peace, Love & Light..wherever your soul is now.

I wanted mine to be simple, easy to make, healthier (Sorry Michael and Michael's Mom) and not be based around the whole cheese factor. So I made a choice to leave out the cheeze completely and for it to be used as a condiment at the end if desired. I also wanted mine to be Gluten Free. I decided to dip mine into a Low Fat Italian salad dressing then coat with Quinoa flakes. My method of cooking the eggplant was simple..onto a tray and baked in a hot oven. My marinara was, as always, the K.I.S.S Marinara sauce from Isa & Terry's Veganomican cookbook. It never fails and is always perfect in flavour. So I take no credit for the sauce. lol.

It worked! OK its a long way from Michael's heady dish but its a damn good version and the eggplant was tender and succulent and the quinoa flakes worked a treat. Combined with the sauce...well..Oh Yum! lol. And you get to enjoy leftovers in a sandwich the next day, should you choose.

R & R's Baked Eggplant with Marinara Sauce...perfect with a side order of steamed veggies.

Rocket & Roses Baked Eggplant with Marinara Sauce
(Original recipe from the Rocket & Roses Vegan Kitchen..except for the sauce..) 

2 medium eggplants, cleaned and sliced into rounds
Low fat Italian dressing to coat
Quinoa flakes to cover

K.I.S.S Marinara Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1/4 tsp dried oregano 
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp low sodium salt (my preference)
1/2 tsp sugar (optional) 

vegan Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 2oo'C/400'F/GM 6 and prepare two large baking sheets. Stray lightly with a spray oil. Take your slices of eggplant and then dip them into the dressing and brush off the excess on the side of the bowl and then place them into the quinoa flakes and cover each side and then place onto the trays until all slices are coated. Place the trays into the hot oven and bake for 9 minutes and then take them out and carefully flip them over and swap the trays around on the shelves for even cooking. Bake for a further 9 minutes, checking at the five minute mark to make sure there is no burning. (I baked mine for a further 5 minutes and then turned the heat off...and left the door ajar as I finished making the sauce and steaming the veggies. They were perfectly cooked at this point) 

They should look toasty like this! Golden brown discs of eggplant.

In a saucepan heat the oil and then add the garlic...keep it moving until it's lightly golden and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and sugar and pepper and stir well to combine. bring to a simmer and cook without a cover for 15 minutes.

On a serving plate ladle a small spoonful of the sauce and then layer with slices, repeat and then put a little more sauce on the top of the stack. If using...grate a little vegan Parmesan cheeze on top. Serve with steamed veggies. 

Gratuitous foodie


Thanks for stopping by and I hope your Wednesday is a good one...