Vegan Eggplant Stack with White Beans in Beet Greens Pesto and Grilled Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa

DSCN1689I love teaching, but I also love summer when I can treat myself (and sometimes other teacher friends also on summer break) to lunches like this!

Don’t get me wrong: our cafeteria manager goes out of her way to make sure I have nutritious, fresh food to enjoy  every day (usually, hummus with lots of raw veggies, or creamy baked sweet potatoes and cooked greens).  But I’ve never seen anything like my Eggplant Stack in the lunchroom!

Born of ingredients from the farmer’s market, along with some white beans, this recipe is one that is scrumptious as is, but can be adapted a million different ways.  My baked breaded eggplant is the base for your own imagination to take flight.

The trick to uniformly golden brown breaded eggplant slices that require no egg wash and no frying is a light coat of vegan mayo in place of the wash (which also adds great flavor!), and breadcrumbs that are toasted stovetop before  being adhered to the eggplant.  This America’s Test Kitchen trick prevents the eggplant from getting done before the coating gets brown enough.

If you prepare it as pictured, the key to this dish is to have my Beet Green and Roasted Almond Pesto and my Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa (recipe follows) made athead so the dish goes together quickly.  Although, you have a half hour while the eggplant bakes to make the pesto and salsa if need be.

*2-8 inch  eggplants, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/3-inch slices (approximately 8 slices total, 2 to 3 per person)

3 to 4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (about 2 teaspoons per slice )

Approximately 2 cups Panko bread crumbs, toasted in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until golden brown, and transferred to a shallow bowl or cake pan

1/2 cup diced yellow or red onion

2-15.5 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained

Sea salt

1/4 cup Beet Green Pesto

Approximately 1 cup Zucchni-Rosemary Salsa (recipe follows)

Garnish: basil or rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  *Taste a little of the raw eggplant and, if bitter, lightly salt the both sides of the slices and arrange them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat the eggplant dry.  Also rinse and dry the baking sheet, and either line it with Silpat or coat it well with non-stick cookng spray.  Arrange the eggplant slices on the sheet, an inch or so apart.  Spread about 1 teaspoon of vegan mayo on tops of all eggplant slices, and then place each, mayo-side down, in bowl of crumbs, pressing crumbs gently to adhere, and patting on more crumbs if desired.  Place crumb-side down on baking sheet.  Repeat with more mayo and crumb son opposite sides.  Spray tops of eggplant lightly with non-stick spray and bake approximately 30 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil if they start to get too brown.

While eggplant cooks, heat olive oil in large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add beans, stir to combine well, and heat through.  Add Beet Green Pesto, and do the same.  To serve, place two to three eggplant slices on each serving plate, top with 1/4th of the beans, dividing between slices, and then with 1/4th of the Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa.  Delicious served warm or at room temperature.  Garnish with a sprig of basil or, to stay truest to the dish, rosemary.

Grilled Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa 

This quick and breezy Mediterranean-flavored salsa is the embodiment of summer and made entirely from a very few ingredients almost entirely gathered up at my go-to farm stand.

Besides topping the Eggplant Stack, I recommend it over pasta or simply served on crostini as a kind of bruschetta or with pita chips.

2-6 inch zucchini sliced lengthwise into quarters

Sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered (cut smaller if your tomatoes are larger than cherries)

1/3 cup finely diced yellow or red onion

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: pinch red pepper flakes

Oil a grill pan and heat over medium-high.  Lightly salt zucchini and lay in pan, grilling two to three minutes on each side or until nice grill marks develop and zucchini is crisp-tender.  Cool just until it is easily handled, and then dice.  Combine zucchini and all remaining ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, being sure to add garlic and fresh rosemary to the grilled zucchini while it is still warm, and toss gently to completely combine.  Serve immediately or chill, covered until serving time.

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Vegan Beet Bolognese–Mama-Mia!

DSCN1657Yield: 8 servings

I love beets!  Roasted, in salads, in my “famous” Beet Muhummara…you name it, I love me some beets!

And they have been beet-iful at the farmer’s market lately.  I bought a bunch recently–again–but wanted to do something new with them.  I’m not sure why it occurred to me, but I wondered about a pasta sauce, like a Bolognese.  So I searched online, and found a vegan version, but mine is substantially different and, after a little more research, seems more true to the original…without the meat, of course.

A little chopping is involved, but the recipe goes together quickly and easily and it is well worth it.  Most of the time is hands-free while the sauce simmers.

The optional miso, nutritional yeast, and Liquid Aminos, granted, are hardly traditional, but they add a depth of flavor.  Though they aren’t entirely necessary for a satisfying dish, if you have them on hand, I would definitely use them.

Two other tips:  be sure to cook the sauce the full 4o minutes, and avoid omitting the non-dairy milk at the end, as it lightens and mellows the sauce just perfectly.

Otherwise, enjoy over your favorite pasta, including the new Shiratake noodles–very low cal–or cooked zucchini ribbons!  The color is stunning, not to mention the flavor!

A foodie friend claimed that her husband “who never swoons over food” did…all while tasting it cold out of the carton standing over the sink!  But they really loved it heated over pasta as did my Italian friend–another foodie in her own right–who spooned hers over Orecchiette.  None of these folks, by the way, are vegan (though two are vegetarian)!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Sea salt

1 small carrot, peeled and diced

1 rib of celery, quartered lengthwise and diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf, halved

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 sprig fresh thyme, rinsed (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

8 ounces vegan ground beef substitute, thawed if frozen (I used Boca Veggie Crumbles; note: if your product is not already browned, brown in a little oil and remove from skillet before beginning recipe.  If you aren’t a fan of vegan meat substitutes, consider 8 ounces of cooked lentils, maybe some nice red ones.)

1/2 pound beets, peeled and processed in a food processor until almost a paste

14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, including juice

1 cup red wine (I used a Bordeaux)

1 teaspoon natural sugar

Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Optional: 1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos

Optional:  1 tablespoon light miso

1/4 cup tightly-packed fresh basil leaves, washed

Optional garnishes: a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk (or other unsweetened non-dairy milk)
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the onion, and a pinch of sea salt.  Saute, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.  Repeat this procedure with the carrot followed by the celery.  Add the garlic and saute, stirring, 1 minute.  Season to taste with more salt and with some pepper. Stir in remaining ingredients except soymilk.  Simmer, lowering heat if necessary, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove and discard the thyme sprig and bay leaves, stir in the soymilk, heat through, and turn off heat to allow sauce to rest for a few minutes before serving over cooked pasta garnished as desired.

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Vegan Turkish Chickpea and Beet Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings

I had a dual inspiration for this salad: the wildly popular Beet Muhummara in my Blooming Platter Cookbook and an eye-catching bunch of white beets grown at my favorite local farmer’s market, Stoney’s.  Essentially, I used similar ingredients to the Muhummara—beets, cumin, walnuts, etc.—combined into a salad with the addition of chickpeas.  True to their description, the white beets tasted just like their red relatives, but without the counter-, cutting board- , and lip-staining properties.

Juice of 1 small-medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon tamarind syrup or pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern markets or online)

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Approximately 1 1/2 cups grated beets (unpeeled); about 6 small beets, grated in a food processor (I used white beets because our farmer’s market was very excited about having grown them this year, but use any color you have)

1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onions, green parts only

1/2 cup walnut pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, tamarind syrup, garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine grated beets, chickpeas, spring onions and walnuts.  Drizzle with dressing and toss gently to coat.  Check for seasoning and adjust as desired.  Serve immediately or, preferably, chill for at least an hour for flavors to marry.

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Vegan Beet Muhummara Gets Shout-Out on Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas

Nava Atlas, the prolific and talented cookbook author, blogger, writer, and artist recently featured one of the recipes from my new cookbook The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes as her Recipe of the Week which I shared on Facebook.

But, she also posted my popular Beet Muhummara on her website, Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas.

I invite you to check it out as a prelude to the 150 or so fresh and colorful recipes you’ll find in my book.

Thanks, Nava!

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Vegan Beet Muhammara (Middle Eastern Spread)

Yield: approximately 4 cups

If you think you hate beets, that’s all about to change. If you actually like beets, this recipe will deepen your relationship with this most misunderstood of root vegetables. My stunning and addicting spread is perfect for a number of festive occasions or any regular day or night of the week. It is based on Muhammara, a Turkish spread typically made from red peppers and walnuts that happens to be on my “best seller” list. Here in Virginia Beach one of our favorite restaurants, Garrison’s, serves a beet and walnut spread that I find mesmerizing on their Mediterranean Plate. I wondered if I could come close to it by substituting raw red beets for the red peppers in my Muhammara recipe and playing around fairly significantly with the proportions of the other ingredients. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” My concoction is to die for and even prettier than its inspiration. If you’re thinking, “Beets? Ick.” Please think again. True confession: I am not a huge beet fan. I have tried to love them; really I have. But they can be tricky. I think they are lovely and appealingly earthy. And, while I have roasted them and really liked them–provided I used enough acid to dress them–for the most part, as my father would say, “I don’t wake up screaming for them.” That is until I tried Garrison’s spread and, now, my own version which is a bit different but dare I say it, maybe even better??? Thinking of substituting canned ones? Don’t do it! Have you ever read the label? They have NO nutrition nor, to my way of thinking, anything else to recommend them. Make this spread with raw ones and you will be a fan for life.

For this recipe and some 170+ more,
I invite you to purchase my first cookbook:

The Blooming Platter:
A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes

Vegan Heritage Press
Spring 2011

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