So the husband and I are officially past the first 6 months of “Hey, we’re newlyweds, let’s eat whatever the heck we want!” phase and now are realizing that we looked a lot slimmer in our wedding photographs. We decided to cut out processed carbs (breads, pastas, desserts) and sugary drinks on top of our vegetarian diet. It’s deceivingly easy to be an unhealthy vegetarian (think loads of pizza, veggie burgers with fries, donuts, bagels, soda, Frappuccinos, etc.).
Although it IS a lot more work, using as many fresh, plant-based ingredients has been helpful. Even though we’ve been 7 months without any kind of meat, I still find it hard to give up cheese, hence this Eggplant Lasagna recipe I’m posting below. Instead of traditional bread crumbs, I used almond flour to cut out unwanted processed carbs.
I can’t believe I’ve become such a huge fan of eggplant when I loathed it even early as 5 years ago. As a vegetarian, eggplant and Portabella mushrooms have been invaluable as substitutes for main entrees. Here’s what I came up with for tonight’s dinner with the husband. It was so delicious; I didn’t even miss the pasta! Ingredient measurements are not exact;)
Eggplant “No Pasta” Lasagna
1 large eggplant, sliced thin into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 cup of almond flour
1 jar of marinara sauce
2 eggs, beaten
10 slices of mozzarella cheese
8 oz. of ricotta
Grated Parmesan (I used canned)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Freshly grated pepper and sea salt for seasoning
Fresh chopped parsley (for garnish, optional)
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare eggplant, lightly salt both sides of each eggplant slice and lay flat on a plate or baking tray for 20-30 minutes. This will help reduce bitterness in the eggplant. Dry eggplant with a paper towel and set aside.
2) Combine almond flour, some grated Parmesan, pepper, salt and Italian seasoning in one medium bowl. Take one eggplant slice and dip in beaten eggs, coating both sides. Dredge in the flour mixture and place on another baking tray. Repeat with each eggplant slice.
4) When you have dredged each eggplant slice, throw that in the oven for 20 minutes, turning over once until each side is golden brown and slightly crispy.
5) In the meantime, heat marinara sauce in a small pot. I was feeling lazy today, so I didn’t dress the marinara sauce up too much. I usually mince garlic, pan fry the garlic with some fresh herbs and then simmer the marinara sauce on top of that, reducing with some dry red wine. Tonight, I simply added dry red wine and a bit of Parmersan cheese to the marinara sauce to add a bit more complexity to the taste.
6) When the eggplant has fully baked, remove from the oven. Now we are ready to layer our eggplant lasagna.
7) Layer eggplant rounds in a greased 9×13 baking dish. You will probably use 1/3 of the eggplant. Cover the first layer with 1/3 of the marinara sauce. Lightly dust with Parmesan if desired. With a small spoon, using half of the ricotta, place a small dollop on each round using a small spoon. Repeat the pattern again with 1/3 eggplant, then 1/3 marinara and Parmesan, then another few dollops of ricotta. For the final stage, layer the rest of the eggplant, marinara and Parmesan.
8) When you have put the final layer of sauce and ricotta, lay slices of Mozzarella cheese across every layer. I ended up using all 10 slices in the package.
9) Throw in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
10) After 30 minutes, remove from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, garnish with fresh chopped Italian leaf parsley if desired. Now you’re ready to eat it!
Garlicky Kale Salad
This salad was inspired by a salad I had at Mediterranean Blue, a mom and pop Greek place in south downtown Orlando. The salad is quite simple and delicious and a great side to any main course.
1 bunch of kale, chopped with large veins removed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Aged red wine vinegar
Coarse sea salt
Toss garlic, lemon, olive oil, vinegar and sea salt together. Combine and toss with the kale leaves. Top with fresh grated Parmesan (this I grated off a block of Parmesan). Serve with your eggplant lasagna and enjoy!