Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eggplant and Tomato Gratin

The cover article of last Sunday's New York Times Magazine was about how no one cooks anymore - or, at least, that cooking might mean heating a frozen pizza, but no one is cooking from scratch. I beg to differ, and I think this blog is proof. Maybe I'm the only one left in America who condenses her own (soy) milk for an hour and a half over the stove, or makes tomato puree from fresh tomatoes instead of cracking open a can, but heck, I still love it!

It is precisely tomato puree that I made to start this dish tonight - canned tomatoes can be fine in a pinch (and in the winter), but right now the summer crop looks and smells amazing, so I wanted mine fresh.

Chop, seed, and peel 3 pounds of tomatoes - don't forget that the easy way to peel them is to make an X along the bottom of each tomato, drop in boiling water for 1 minute, then transfer to ice water to stop the cooking process. The skins will easily slip off.

Place the resulting chopped and seeded tomatoes in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse about 5 times, until pureed. I recommend removing the center of your blender's lid and covering with a paper towel, so steam can escape. Set the puree aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup finely chopped celery, 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion and 3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot; saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, and 1 basil leaf. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes - the mixture should be slightly thickened.

Discard the bay leaf, thyme sprig, and basil leaf, and set the sauce aside.

Meanwhile, peel 2 and 1/2 pounds of medium-sized eggplant (about 2 eggplant), but as you peel, leave thin strips of peel attached. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray - you'll probably need two baking sheets. Lightly coat the tops of the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Broil for 5 minutes on each side.

I actually forgot the salt and pepper before I began to broil, but I did the sprinkling in the middle, when I took the baking sheets from the oven to flip the eggplant slices over.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish (the same as an 11x7-inch baking dish) with cooking spray. Spread 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil. Repeat with another 3/4 cup sauce, another 1/3 of the eggplant, another tablespoon of thinly sliced basil. Repeat a second time - 3/4 cup sauce, the final 1/3 of the eggplant, and a final tablespoon of thinly sliced basil.

Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese in place of Parmesan - I used the vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes - the eggplant should be nice and tender. Let stand for 10 minutes before dividing into 6 equal portions of 130 calories each.

As with so many recipes that are deemed 'side dishes' for non-vegans, I think double portions of this easily make a main course meal.

tomatoes $9.03
carrot $0.16
bay leaves $3.99
thyme $2.49
basil $2.99
eggplant $5.63
vegan cheese $3.39

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance