I guess I have always been a little bit of a food snob. By second grade, I was so used to my mom’s spaghetti sauce and also sufficiently food snobby that I literally couldn’t eat anyone else’s mom’s sauce. I can recall once actually gagging on it, and my friend’s mom making me a sandwich (which was very sweet – I’m sure she though I was a total brat).
My mom learned the tricks of the sauce trade from my dad’s mom, and when I left to go to my first apartment after college, she copied all of my favorite recipes, including the sauce, down in a little notebook. My sauce has never been quite as good as hers – possibly because I try to eat it too soon, before letting it mellow sufficiently, possibly because she left out an important ingredient, not wanting to give me the keys to the shop just yet. Anyway, the lady makes a mean sauce, and it’s especially killer on her eggplant parmesan.
But traditional eggplant parmesan? Not so raw. And it relies on lots of cheese. (On our first date, my Guy likes to recall, I asked him “What’s the point of cheese?” Hey, he can’t say he didn’t know what he was getting into!)
So I crafted my own raw eggplant parm recipe, all raw, baby! Here it is:
Your first step is to peel the eggplant (one is good for two people, use more and double the “mozzarella” cheese recipe if you have a bigger crowd), slice it into thin slices -1/4 inch is good. Lay them on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and let them sit for an hour or so, then flip them and do the same thing on the other side. My mom never does this with hers, but my nana does, to take some of the bitterness out. It might take a while, but, hey – this is homemade Italian cooking, folks!
1 ½ cups sundried tomatoes, chopped and soaked for at least an hour (or not, if you don’t time)
1 ½ cups tomatoes, chopped, with seeds and all
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 big clove of garlic
½-1 cup of water, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are (use the soaking liquid from your sundrieds, if you can)
Throw the sundried tomatoes in the food processor first, with some of the regular tomatoes, to get them smoothed out, like tomato paste, and then put most of the ingredients in the blender. I put the onions and peppers in last, and just gave them a little whirl, so they were still in teensy chunks, not totally blended. Salt & pepper to taste. Make the sauce a day ahead if you can, and refrigerate until a couple hours before you use it.
½ cup ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ cup walnuts
½-1 teaspoon oregano (depending on how much you like)
Dash of black pepper & salt
Grind it all up, and then brush the sides of the (dried) eggplant slices with a little olive oil (if you don’t have a nifty pastry brush, do like I did and use a paper towel). Pour the breading into a plate, and press onto the eggplant slices. You can skip the breading if you like – I experimented, and it was still yummy. Put ‘em in the oven on the lowest temp with the door open, or put them in the dehydrator on mesh screens at 105 (I tried both ways, as well). It took mine about 2-2 ½ hours to get soft and yummy, either method.
While you are waiting for the eggplant to “cook” make your cheeses…
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons lemon (use only one if you want your cheese really dry and crumbly)
½ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
Food process it. I was a nerd and spread mine out on a teflex dehydrator sheet to make it a little crispy. You can just crumble yours on top.
1 cup of cashews, soaked an hour or two
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (there’s a lot of nutritional yeast in this recipe, I know…if you think it is weird or aren’t near a health food store that has it, you can skip it. It imparts a cheesy flavor, but this will still be yummy without it.)
3 tablespoons lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons oil
Process to your heart’s content. I like mine smooth, so I used 2 tablespoons of water and processed a lot. If you like it more like ricotta, do less water and less whirling.
Assemble it all together! I made little individual piles, layering eggplant, cheese, sauce, eggplant, cheese, sauce, eggplant, more sauce, crumbled parmesan on top. I put it back in the dehydrator for a few minutes so all the parts could make friends and get warm together.
(Almost) just like Mama makes!
I served mine with spinach marinated for several hours in lemon, a few tablespoons of olive oil, diced garlic, and salt and pepper..deeeelish.