Mr. Meow alleges digestive woes every time he consumes a vegetarian meal. Apparently, it is impossible to tame the carnivore inside. I can almost visualise you figuratively patting him on the back for this ‘manly’ stance. I have a number of friends who constantly shame vegetarians to new levels of ignominy. Vegans curry even less favour. Although I am hardly a vegetarian myself, I am always happy to chastise pro-meat friends. My diet does tend to feature plants rather heavily whether or not I have Mr Meow’s approval.
Imagine my surprise then when a certain nondescript vegetable dish invited uncharacteristic praise from Mr Meow. It is unbelievably delicious, even if I do say so myself (and my independence on this matter is questionable).
Eggplants were aplenty at the local grocer the other week and with the bitter cold we have been experiencing in Melbourne, I dreamed up a comfort dish to use this underappreciated vegetable and ward off the chills. It is so simple in terms of ingredient and requires so little by way of effort that it is almost unbelievable that it is so tasty.
This eggplant parmigiana features zucchini too and a wonderful crunchy topping containing a surprise ingredient (it’s not breadcrumbs)! Of course, the best two things about this dish are it is Banting-friendly and has oodles of cheese!
Aussies will get the reference to the pub meal – chicken parma. This clearly isn’t it.
Eggplant and Zucchini Parmigiana – serves 4-6 as a main
You will need
- 2 large, firm eggplants
- 4 medium zucchinis
- ¼ cup olive oil + extra for drizzling
- 1 large brown onion, diced
- 3 sticks celery, diced
- 2 small carrots, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bottle passata (ensure it is sugar-free) or 7-8 fresh tomatoes, chopped or pureed
- 4-5 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- a large handful of fresh basil leaves, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 250g mozarella, shredded (I am not shy to use 300g+)
- ½ cup medium macadamia meal (you can make some by roughly blitzing raw macadamias in a food processor)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced (or 180°C).
- Wash and pat dry the eggplant and zucchini then slice evenly lengthways approximately 0.5cm thick. Lay out onto lined baking trays without overlapping. Mine took up about 4 trays.
- Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes or until they start to soften and turn golden brown. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Gently heat the olive oil in a deep heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion, carrot and celery and saute until soft then stir in the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. The mixture should be translucent by now.
- Add the passata (or tomatoes if using) and mix well. Allow to cook until the sauce comes to a boil then turn down the heat and add the bay leaves. Cover partially to prevent splattering and let the sauce bubble and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Make the topping – in a small bowl, combine the three ingredients until well mixed. Set aside.
- Once the tomato sauce has cooked it will darken in colour and develop a sheen from the oil. At this point, add the dried oregano and season well. Cook for a further 5 minutes to infuse well then turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaves, discard. Stir in the basil.
- Preheat the oven again to 180°C fan forced.
- In a large baking dish (I use two glazed terracota dishes), smear a dollop of the tomato sauce at the bottom of the dish. Then carefully arrange some cooked eggplant and zucchini slices in a layer. Top with a smear of tomato sauce and sprinkle some mozarella. Repeat until all zucchini, eggplant, sauce and cheese are used up. You may finish with a top layer of cheese, sauce or vegetable – this doesn’t matter too much.
- Evenly sprinkle all the macadamia topping over the layered dish and then bake the parmigiana for about 20 minutes or until the topping is a lovely golden brown.
- Serve with a salad of mixed greens tossed with classic vinaigrette. I love the crunch and bitterness of raddichio to counter the relative sweetness of the tomatoes.
Make it and I dare you to resist eating the whole thing by yourself in one sitting!
If you make this, please share your version with the tag #mGmeats