Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan

My first visit to Italy was in 2005.  Our first stop was Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.  It is the home of University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world.  As I walked around the city during lunch time, I noticed a long line of university students waiting their turn to go inside a tiny bistro.  I decided to come back when the lunch rush was over and eat there.  This is when I had the most incredible roasted eggplant dish.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

It has been one of my favorites ever since.  I recreated it when I got back home, and I make it a lot.  Fortunately for me, it is gluten free and keto friendly.  As I stated in a previous post, I started a ketogenic lifestyle on 25 February 2019 to control my blood sugar without any medications.  Since I have decided to lead a ketogenic lifestyle forever, I am glad that this favorite dish of mine can still be part of my life.

INGREDIENTS FOR EGGPLANT SLICES:

  • 4 small eggplants (these came from my neighbor’s garden.)
  • 1/4 cup of my Italian Spice Mix
  • enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over eggplant slices
  • olive oil to saute the eggplant

PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
  • Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
  • Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap
  • Refrigerate overnight to allow excess water to be extracted from the eggplant.  This process makes the eggplant absorb less oil.
  • Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid.  Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
  • Place the salted and dried eggplant slices , in a single layer, into a clean glass baking dish

Kachri Sliced

  • drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle with my Italian Spice Mix.  Flip the slices over and repeat on the other side.
  • Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix.  Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.

Eggplant Slices Coated with Italian Spice Mix

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

COOKING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil
  • Turn the flame to medium heat and get the oil hot, but not smoking
  • Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices.  Do not crowd the pan. Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side. Flip and repeat until the slices are brown and crispy on both sides.
  • The cooking time is longer than you think.  It is 10 minutes per side.  Once the eggplant is brown on both sides, test it with a fork. Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
  • Continue the process until all the eggplant slices are cooked.

When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove.  This saves time.

INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Assembly Set Up

  • Cooked eggplant slices
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce (you can buy it or make it.  Click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential, for my recipe.)
  • 10 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into thin slices
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves, removed from their stems
  • 24 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

By the way, those beautiful dishes in the photo above are by Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela in Ravello, Italy.  One of my favorite places.

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in two layers

  • Coat the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  This will prevent the bottom from burning.
  • Next place a single layer of eggplant slices
  • Place a piece of mozzarella on each eggplant slice
  • Top each slice of mozzarella with a basil leaf
  • Spread a layer of marinara sauce
  • Sprinkle on a layer of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Repeat, starting with another layer of eggplant slices

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 F oven until the casserole starts bubbling.  Should take about 20 to 30 minutes.  Take the casserole out of the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 F.  Remove the foil and top with a final layer of Parmesan cheese.  Place back in the oven, on the top rack, and bake until the top layer of cheese turns brown.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so the cheese does not burn.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Gluten Free Eggplant Parm Feature

The hardest part is waiting to let it rest.  It smells so good and looks so tempting that it is hard to wait.  I like making this for pot luck suppers, because I can make it in advance, and it tastes even better the next day.

I have also made this dish with other vegetables like spaghetti squash and patty pan squash.  I will post those versions next time I make them.

Here is a photo of my  “Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna” version, served for dinner with a large salad.  Easy breezy, gluten free, vegetarian, keto friendly and oh so delicious!!!

Spaghetti Squash Faux Lasagna with Salad

Hope you enjoy this.  Please let me know in the comment section.

Aubergine Kachri (spicy slices of sautéed eggplant served with a yogurt mint sauce)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE EGGPLANT SLICES:

  • In this recipe, I used 5 medium sized eggplants because that is what my neighbor brought to me from his garden.  If you buy eggplants from the store, you will need 2 large ones.
  • 1/2 a cup of my Indian Spice Mix
  • enough kosher salt to lightly sprinkle over the eggplant slices
  • grapeseed oil to sauté the eggplant

INGREDIENTS FOR THE YOGURT SAUCE:

Kachri Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup of plain yogurt.  You can buy it from the store or make some of My Mom’s Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of Labneh.  Labneh is a yogurt cheese made by removing the water content of yogurt.  It is basically extra thick Greek yogurt.  It lends a tangy flavor.  If you can’t find it, use sour cream instead.
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 small fresh mint leaf to garnish each eggplant slice.
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds.  I will show you how to prepare the toasted cumin powder  later in the recipe.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black salt.  Black salt is an Indian salt with a high mineral content.  If you don’t have this substitute your favorite salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried mango powder.  In India, this is called Aamchoor.  It is the dried skins of small green mangoes.  It lends a complex tart flavor.  You can buy it in an Indian grocery store.  If you can’t find it, substitute lemon juice or Sumac.

PREPARING THE TOASTED CUMIN POWDER:

  • Place a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a small sauce pan.  Turn flame to low and toast until you can smell the cumin.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
  • Transfer the toasted cumin seeds to a glass bowl and let them cool to room temperature.
  • Place then in a coffee or spice grinder and whiz until you have a fine powder.

I keep two spice grinders in my kitchen.  One for sweet spices, like the ones I use to make my chai masala, and another for hot and savory spices.  This way I don’t have to clean my spice grinders.  I have had the same grinders for over 25 years and they are still working!!!

PREPARING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Using a serrated knife, cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch discs
  • Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt on both sides
  • Place in a glass container and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.  This allows excess water to be extracted from the eggplant.  This process also makes the eggplant less able to absorb oil.
  • Remove the eggplant slices from the glass container and place onto paper towel sheets to dry off excess liquid.  Discard the liquid at the bottom of the glass container.
  • At this point place the salted and dried eggplant slices, in a single layer, into a clean glass container

 

Kachri Sliced

  • drizzle on some grapeseed oil and sprinkle with my Indian Spice Mix
  • turn over the slices and repeat on the other side

Kachri Spiced

  • Add another layer of eggplant slices and coat with oil and spice mix.  Repeat until all the eggplant slices are used up.

Kachri Marinating

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

COOKING THE EGGPLANT:

  • Coat a large non-stick skillet with grapeseed oil
  • Turn the flame to medium and get the oil hot
  • Once the oil is hot add a layer of spiced eggplant slices.  Do not crowd the pan.  Cook the slices till they are golden brown on the first side.  Flip and repeat until the slices are brown and crispy on both sides.
  • The cooking time is longer than you think.  It is 10 minutes per side.  Once the eggplant is brown on both sides.  Test it with a fork.  Once it is fork tender remove it to a glass baking dish.
  • Continue this process until all the eggplant is cooked.  Keep placing each slice in the glass baking dish once it is cooked.

When I am cooking a lot of eggplant, I use two pans on the stove.  This saves time.

PREPARING THE YOGURT SAUCE:

  • Place all the ingredients, except the fresh mint leaves, into a glass bowl and stir.
  • Taste the salt and adjust the salt to your liking.

ASSEMBLY:  Here I have served the dish family style by arranging the sautéed eggplant slices on a platter.  Garnish each slice with a dollop of yogurt sauce and a fresh mint leaf.

Kachri Feauture

This is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant.  The spices make the dish very flavorful.  The slow sauté makes the outside of the eggplant crispy while the inside stays creamy.  Don’t rush the sauté time because the slow cooking is essential to getting the right texture.  The yogurt sauce adds tang and creaminess.  The mint tops it off with a pop of freshness.

When I am having a sit down dinner party, I put 4 eggplant slices on a salad plate and serve it as the appetizer course.  It can also be served as a main dish for a vegetarian.

I appreciate your feedback, so please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.  ENJOY !!!

Spicy Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush with a Texan Kick)

I learned how to make Lebanese food when I was visiting Acapulco, Mexico in 1990.  Sounds odd that I would learn to make Lebanese food in Mexico.  Here is the story.

I went to Acapulco in 1990 to present a research paper at a conference.  I was vegetarian at the time and this was my first visit to Mexico.  I found a Lebanese restaurant with a large vegetarian menu right next to our hotel.  The food was so good that I ate every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner there.  I asked the waiter to introduce me to the cook.  He told me that his mother was doing the cooking and she would love to meet me since I kept coming back for every meal.  When I met his mother, I asked if she would teach me how to cook Lebanese food.  She said yes and taught me how to make many of her dishes.

This was so much fun.  My scientific conference turned into an unexpected culinary adventure.  I live in Texas now and I put a spicy Texan kick on this recipe.  Following are a few ways to serve Baba Ganoush.

Baba Ganoush Salad
Baba Ganoush Salad

 

Baba Gonoush Crudites Crudites
Baba Ganoush Crudites

 

Baba Ganoush Platter
Baba Ganoush Platter with Eggplant Chips.  The Grilled Eggplant Chip idea came from Xanthe LeBlanc at X-Rated Food Blog

 

INGREDIENTS:

Baba Ganoush Ingredients 1

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup of tomato water
  • 1 cup of Tahini (sesame seed) paste.
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the eggplants and jalapenos and a bit extra for garnishing the platter
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (and additional for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • mint sprig for garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredient Note:  Traditionally this recipe is made with lemon juice instead of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.  I had no lemons available so I substituted tomato water and sherry vinegar.  If you are using the lemon juice, add the juice of one large lemon to a cup of water in place of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.

PREPPING THE EGGPLANT:

 

  • Use a small paring knife to poke holes in the eggplants and jalapenos.  This will prevent them from exploding in the oven during roasting.
  • Coat the eggplants and the jalapenos with olive oil and place in a glass baking dish.
  • Heat your oven to 450 F.  Roast the veggies until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the veggies during the roasting process to ensure that the skin chars on all sides.
  • Pull out the jalapenos first since they will be done before the eggplants.  Set these aside for later in the recipe.
  • Once the eggplants are roasted.  Let them cool so you can handle them.  Peel off the skins, remove the seeds and use a cutting board and chef’s knife to finely chop up the eggplant.  Do not use a food processor because the eggplant will get gummy.

MAKING THE EGGPLANT DIP:

  • In a large food processor add, the roasted jalapenos, tomato water, sherry vinegar, sumac, smoked paprika, minced garlic and a half a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
  • Tahini is sesame seed paste.  When you open the jar you will see the sesame oil float on top like it does when you open up a jar of natural peanut butter.  Stir to mix the oil in and then add a cup of the paste to the food processor.
  • Turn the food processor on and blend until the mixture is smooth.  If the mixture is too thick add some water so that the consistency is like a thick pancake batter.
  • Taste the Tahini mixture and adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Add the eggplant mixture and pulse the food processor to combine gently.  Turn out in a glass bowl and finishing mixing by hand.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  If you would like more acid then add sumac.

Turn out the dip onto a platter. Sprinkle some sumac.  Drizzle some olive oil and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Baba Ganoush Feature

RECIPE NOTE:

When my husband is firing the charcoal grill, I ask him to roast the eggplant on the charcoal.  This gives it a smokier flavor.  The oven works fine but the charcoal grill makes it extra special.

Eggplant Bharta (curried mashed eggplant)

Bharta served with Rotis and My Mom’s Yogurt

Ingredients:  Serves 6-8

20160704_201500
2 large eggplants stuffed with garlic cloves

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  • 2 large eggplants (these were grown by my neighbor, Billy)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 chili pepper, minced
  • 3 inches of ginger root, minced
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • grape seed oil (or any other neutral flavored oil)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prep:

20160726_200707

The onion and tomato are diced.  The ginger and chili are minced.

Prepping the mashed eggplant:

20160704_201500
2 large eggplants stuffed with garlic cloves
  • Separate the garlic head into cloves.  Peel the skin from each clove and cut it in half lengthwise.
  • Cut slits into the eggplants and insert a piece of garlic into each slit.
  • Rub each eggplant with grape see oil.  Place in a baking dish and roast at 450 F until the skin becomes charred and the flesh is soft.  NOTE: you will have to turn the eggplants over during the roasting process so that the skin is charred on all sides.

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  • Cut of the ends, score them with a fork and set aside for later.20160726_184528
  • Discard as many of the seeds as you can and scoop out the flesh.20160726_200158
  • Use a chef’s knife to finely mince the flesh.  DO NOT USE A FOOD PROCESSOR because it will make the eggplant gummy.20160726_200248

Cook:

  1.  Coat a large skillet with grape seed oil.  Add the onion, ginger, chili, black mustard seed , cumin and chili flakes.20160726_201150
  2. Turn the stove to medium and saute until brown (about 8 minutes)20160726_203620
  3. Add the garam masala and tumeric.  Let the spices toast for about a minute.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes.  Saute until the tomatoes are soft.20160726_204008
  5. Add the mashed eggplant and the 2 eggplant ends (when we were little my sisters and I would fight over the eggplant ends.  So mom made sure there was one for each of us.)  Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the peas.  Let them saute for 2 minutes.

I have served the Eggplant Bharta with Rotis and My Mom’s Yogurt.  This is how my mom served it.  You can use this as a side dish with anything you like.