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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