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Vegan Eggplant Parm - an experiment

(post, Tiffanie McCoy)

I was reading something on Culinate (an interview?) this morning and saw a reference to a garlic-eggplant dish with mushrooms. It stuck in my mind when I was shopping at Trader Joe's this morning, and I ended up buying some globe eggplants and whole crimini mushrooms. The more I read the recipe, the more dubious I became about it, however, and I decided what I really wanted was a dish with very soft eggplant, mushrooms, garlic, and tomato sauce. I found a recipe online for an eggplant parm-like dish and decided to veganize it as an experiment.

The recipe calls for slicing the eggplant up into 1/4 inch slices and broiling them on both sides. I salted them first and let them sit out for a bit, and used both eggplants, probably a bit more than two pounds. In a frying pan, I sauteed an onion, three garlic cloves, the sliced mushrooms, some salt and spices (I used oregano, basil, and thyme). In a round oven dish with tall sides (souffle?) I layered the mushroom mixture, the eggplants, some freshly ground pepper, and some arrabiata sauce from a jar. Yes, I know, but I was lucky to have the time to make dinner at all, let alone cook tomato sauce from scratch today. I made two iterations of these layers, and it filled up the dish to the top. I let it sit for a couple of hours, then cooked it at 375 for thirty minutes.

I served it over pasta, and it was delicious. My husband says he normally doesn't expect much from pasta sauces, but this has raised the bar tremendously. He really loved it, as did I. The flavors were intense, the eggplant was delightfully soft with crispy edges (I left the skins on), the arrabiata sauce gave it a spiciness that was really pleasant. We didn't miss the cheese at all -- the veggies were very satisfying. Hmm, just realized it was a really low fat dish; I used some olive oil for the frying pan and brushed the eggplant slices with oil so they wouldn't stick.

Next time I think I might add some greens -- maybe some spinach, basil, or chard. And maybe more mushrooms, 8 oz just seems to disappear once cooked.

What would you add to this dish?