Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One-Pot Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan

Colin decided a couple weeks ago that he wanted to try being gluten free. My initial response was something along the lines of "ummmm...why?" and then, without pause: "you know that beer has gluten in it, right?"

Yes, he knows that beer has gluten in it, but still, he insisted, there might be something to this gluten free thing.

My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss gluten-free as a near impossibility while also being vegan, but between living in Portland and the endless dept of the blogosphere, I knew that was a total cop-out.

Instead, I decided to embrace the GF diet as a challenge and an educational opportunity. I mean, as a self-proclaimed foodie, cook, and health nut, how could I ignore understanding the gluten-free lifestyle and at least learning to cook a few dishes GF?

Plus! Wine is still gluten-free so it can't be all that bad, right :)?

Well it was bad for me when it came to pancakes. I completely failed at pancake making. And I spent nearly an hour researching oats to understand whether or not they are gluten free. And Clif Bars. And a myriad of other things I literally had no idea about, but I won't completely bore you with the details.

Like I said, it was an educational opportunity.

One dish that did go particularly well and was super simple + healthy was this "one-pot" eggplant parmesan.

I was having a particularly lazy night, but I really wanted to make eggplant parmesan so instead of slicing, battering, breading, and then baking each individual slice of eggplant, only to then cover it with marinara sauce and cheese and bake it someone, I decided to just cut out some of the steps.

GF Eggplant Parm
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced and salted (do this 1-2 hours ahead of time if possible!)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup GF bread crumbs, either store bought or homemade. I used something similar to these (which, admittedly, were like $8 so if I did it again I would probably make them myself)
  • 1 jar YOUR favorite marinara sauce
  • 1 cup vegan cheese (I used Trader Joe's new brand in place of Daiya and loved it!!)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Spread the coconut oil evenly across the bottom of the pot and then layer the eggplant as evenly as you can (see: my gorgeous Le Creuset cast iron pot that Colin got me for Christmas!!) Sprinkle cayenne and any other seasonings over the top.

Place the pot in the oven for about 15 minutes until the eggplant slices have softened and are beginning to brown.

Pull the eggplant out and let it cool briefly. Then, take the bread crumbs and spread/stir them into the eggplant, trying to get all the slices covered as evenly as possible. Then, place the eggplant into the oven for another 10 minutes.

After the breadcrumbs have had a chance to "set," take the pot out of the oven and dump your jar of marinara sauce right over the top, followed by the cheese.

Continue to bake for another 15 or so minutes or until a cheese, delicious layer has formed and the sauce is beginning to brown at the edges of the pot.

Should look kinda like that :)

Allow to cool for a few minutes before spooning onto a plate.

I will warn you! This version is not as firm as the fried or individually breaded original, but it tastes just as good or better and it will save you so much time!

With the right seasoning and marinara sauce, this dish is a piece of gluten-free cake!

Stoked on the GF challenge. But I am not convinced it is the right choice for us long-term. It's been a GREAT learning experience and I will definitely incorporate a lot of what I learned into my day-to-day cooking and am SO happy to have learned how to cook GF for all my friends with intolerances, but for many reasons (summed up nicely in this article) I don't think GF is a forever lifestyle for me!

Live long and prosper. And don't be afraid to challenge yourself!