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Mediterranean Eggplant Bake (The Un-Parmesana) [Vegan]

Posted Nov 13 2008 5:19pm

It is already past the 1 year anniversary of Cindalou's Kitchen Blues' debut, which I only accidentally discovered when going to post this recipe and linking back to my old grilled eggplant recipe from last summer. My dad pointed out that I should have a birthday party for the blog, but I think I'll have a combo b-day bash with all my virtual friends in a few weeks for my (real) birthday and the blog's birthday. Maybe I'll finally make some coconut ice cream. I love icy desserts in the summer, but summertime is also prime season for outdoor grilled vegetables. I can never resist grilled squash, eggplant, and peppers. Thank heavens I don't have any allergies to nightshade vegetables!

What better time than the dog days of hot, lazy summer to drag all that hot kitchen cooking outside? This bake is my rendition of a veggie-laden eggplant Parmesan, minus the parm of course :) I used nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and texture, but feel free to omit the yeast. The heat of baking most likely destroys most of the beneficial B vitamins in the yeast, but the flavor is still great. Plus, I'm a closet optimist (don't tell) so I cross my fingers for the energy-boosting B's in the yeast coming through cooking unscathed.

My mother's old eggplant parm recipe dipped the eggplant in wheat flour, Parmesan cheese, herbs, then baked the eggplant itself an hour before making the casserole. I am not that motivated - when I see a multi-step recipe like that, I think "Ha," not to mention the no wheat flour or cheese thing. This tastes just as great to me, plus it adds colorful veggies. The grilling nicks the need to egg, bread/flour and fry or prebake. Grill extra and use the leftovers in lunch quesadillas with kale and corn tortillas, omelets like my old Grilled Squash and Collards Omelette, or just snack on grilled thinly sliced eggplant and squash. Thinly sliced, they're reminiscent of veggie chips in a non-fried, spicy way. You get the idea...




1 15 oz can organic crushed tomatoes with basil
~ 1/2 can (7 oz) artichoke hearts or fresh artichoke hearts
1 large grilled eggplant>
2 cherry peppers
2 jalapenos
5-6 garlic cloves
1 large organic carrot
2-3 sun dried tomatoes (sulfur free)
handful chopped fresh (or 1/4 c. dried, rehydrated & drained) portabello mushrooms
nutritional yeast, to taste (optional, for "cheesy" taste)
splash dry red wine, optional

Spices:
oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, sea salt, pepper, and a dash of Italian seasoning.

Slice the eggplant widthwise into ~1/8 to 1/4" slices for round eggplant pieces. Season with your choice of spices and spray the grill. I seasoned the eggplant with a blend of turmeric, ground black peppercorns, a dash of cayenne pepper, oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, a bit of dried crushed red pepper, thyme, and sea salt. My Mediterranean Grilled Eggplant recipe from last summer is the basis for this recipe.

Add the eggplant and whole peppers to the grill. Close the grill and cook on high for about 10-15 minutes or until very tender. I used a George Foreman electric grill since it takes much less time than a gas grill. Adjust cooking time for grill type.

Meanwhile, chop your mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, and shred the carrot. If you're using dehydrated mushrooms, steep them in boiling water high enough to cover them, and leave them covered for about 10 minutes or until soft. When finished, drain the mushrooms and save the juice for a healthy and yummy broth or as a sauteing liquid.

Set the chopped and shredded ingredients aside. Once the eggplant and peppers are finished, remove them from the grill and do a second batch if necessary. Slice the grilled peppers once they are cooled. If you prefer a milder flavor, remove the jalapeno seeds.

Add about half of the chopped sundried tomatoes and red wine to the tomato sauce and stir. Spray the bottom of an oven-safe glass baking dish with nonstick spray. I used a small Pyrex and spread the sauce lightly, covering the bottom. Layer the grilled eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish, from large to small slices. Top with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast (optional) . Cover the yeast and eggplant with a thin layer of the prepared carrots, jalapenos, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes. Cover that layer with sauce, then add another layer, sauce, and repeat . Top the casserole with a layer of sauce and the artichoke hearts. If using canned artichokes, drain thoroughly and layer directly on top of the casserole. If you're using fresh artichoke, steam or grill them, then, once cooled, cut them into small pieces and add to the top.



Bake at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes. Note that the short time is for the convection oven setting I used. If you aren't using convection, baking may take longer. Serve hot. Serves approximately 4.

We had this with a few thin slices of grilled tamari grassfed sirloin steak, served over a bed of parsley and drizzled with olive oil, and a fresh red kale and parsley salad.


Spicing up your dishes, especially grilled vegetables, is a fantastic way to throw in a dash of the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is an old folk remedy for poor circulation, stomach upsets, gas, and arthritis/carpel tunnel syndrome. It is also a metabolic stimulant and can help for healthy long-term weight loss and management. In addition to being strongly anti-inflammatory, turmeric is famous for its antioxidant properties. Turmeric's antioxidant qualities help protect and cleanse the gallbladder (prevent kidney stones) and liver. It might also provide aid in memory retention and help in Alzheimer's disease, pending further research. Turmeric is also useful for gout and was used in ancient times for "vermin killing" and is thought to be effective against scabies and lice.

However, cayenne and other hot peppers can be irritating to the skin, lips, and mucus membranes, so judge your intake by personal experience. Turmeric is often used liberally in Indian curries, so it is considered safer than drinking coffee. Use turmeric with caution if you have a bile duct blockage concern.

In this age, the first reaction to indigestion or acid reflux seems to be to suppress natural stomach acid with Calcium Carbonate (Tums) or a whole rainbow of OTC or prescription proton pump inhibitors. However, the avoidance of spice as part of an attempt to lower stomach acid may worsen digestion, since bacteria are not killed and large chewed food particles are harder for the small intestine to absorb nutrients. Also, simply popping a TUMS (basically a chalk pill, mmm) is merely treating the symptom of poor diet and lifestyle. The underlying problems(s) causing the digestive issues should be addressed- trust me, I deal with this on a daily basis! :)

Keep in mind that no one-size-fits-all approach can work. Everything depends on your body type. Some people have legitimate acid reflux, esophageal valve problems, or ulcers and should not assume either extreme of over spicing or raising stomach acid, nor completely hinder their body's natural state of chemical digestion with acid-buffering drugs.

I make no assumptions or generalizations, and can only speak from my own experience: I tend towards poor digestion. I myself benefit from a bit more spice, apple cider vinegar, herbal teas like peppermint and cinnamon, and digestive enzymes. I had acid reflux all the time as a teen. I was so miserable my parents took me to a GI specialist for a barium upper GI series of x-rays to look for ulcers. In the end, after years of thinking TUMS were my best friend, I only eliminated the reflux by elimination of all dairy, stress management (my sister calls me a "stressball"), and adding spices. Hey, a little cayenne pepper is a heck of a lot cheaper than a series of x-rays and the experience of drinking that awful chalky Barium shake :) So cheers to spice, and spice for health.

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