Sunday, September 9, 2012

Vegan Eggplant Ricotta Spinach Casserole (Gluten- and Soy Free Variations too)

Everything's coming up eggplants! I had 4 huge eggplants ready at once in the garden, and I wanted to use them in different ways. Here's one of the recipes, a layered casserole with oven-fried eggplant, spinach, ricotta, and tomato sauce. It's sort of a take on eggplant parm, or maybe eggplant lasagna (sans the noodles).

I typically avoid multi-step recipes like this because I'm so busy, but there's something about crispy, breaded eggplant that is so irresistible. That said, I wanted to avoid the excess fat you get from frying (not to mention the mess), so I did a little low-fat trick that I'll share with you here.

Here's how you make this gluten- and soy-free: Use GF breadcrumbs in place of the pankos, and use cashew cream (consistency of yogurt to sour cream) for the dipping mixture. Omit the ricotta layer.

Eggplant Ricotta Spinach Casserole
  • 1 large eggplant
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup soy mayo
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp vegan parmesan of your choice (optional)
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 10-oz box frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 container Tofutti ricotta
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar tomato sauce or pasta sauce of your choice
  • 1/2 package Daiya mozz shreds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. Stir together the yogurt, mayo, and sour cream (or use cashew cream; I would have used cashew cream but Ben is allergic). Blend together the bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, parma, and seasoned salt. Dip the eggplant in the creamy mixture (or brush it on) and shake off any excess. You want just enough to coat the breadcrumbs, not a thick coating. Dip eggplant into the panko mixture and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (Pam now makes an organic canola variety, did you see it?). Place in the oven. Turn each piece after 15 minutes; bake another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend spinach with the basil, salt, and lemon juice. Set aside. Squish the ricotta around the bowl well (the consistency will change from stiff to creamy eventually) and add the 2 tsp Italian seasoning.

In a 14x9 inch casserole dish, coat the bottom with a layer of tomato sauce. Add a layer of the eggplant (use half). Add the spinach layer (spread out evenly). Add the ricotta layer (spread out evenly). Add another eggplant layer. Add another sauce layer. Sprinkle the mozz on top evenly.

Bake, covered with foil, at 425 for about 20 minutes. Take foil off and bake another 20 minutes or so, or until cheese just starts to brown.

This is a pretty low-fat version of a usually very rich dish. The secret to a moist and flavorful eggplant is the yogurt mixture, which gets sealed in by the breadcrumb coating.

Here's what the oven-fried eggplant looks like:

This is a wonderful leftover. It's wonderful in a salad, sandwich, or wrap. I'm going to make Eggplant Rollatini!

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