I can’t pinpoint when it was exactly that I decided I didn’t like eggplant, but I do know it was many years ago and that I haven’t (consciously) eaten it since. Because eggplant is coming into season, it’s become really hard to avoid in the grocery store aisles. I don’t know what it is, but every time I pass them by, the eggplants seem to call out to me to give them another chance. After all these years of abstinence, I started to question my distaste for the strange purple veggie: have I been judging it too harshly?
So, I finally broke down a few days ago and decided to buy a big, beautiful eggplant. I figured ratatouille would be an easy first recipe for a novice. But after all the time and energy I spent preparing and cooking everything, I could barely finish my dinner. I had even made enough so that I would have leftovers, but just the thought of eating more of that ratatouille made me queasy. Maybe I chose the wrong recipe, or maybe I didn’t cook the dish correctly–whatever it was, that ratatouille was so bad that I actually threw the rest into the trash (and I never waste food).
I had only used half of my eggplant for the ratatouille recipe and had tossed the other half back into the fridge. When I spotted the remaining eggplant a couple of days later, I took pity. I don’t know what compelled me to give that eggplant another chance, but I think it may have been my conscience beating me up for wasting so much food before. This time around I decided I would slice the veggie into rounds, bread it (with dairy-free milk and gluten-free flour and bread crumbs, of course), and bake it. I was inspired by traditional Eggplant Parmesan recipes, but I thought I would give the dish a healthier and more modern twist.
My breading station (please ignore the 70s-inspired marbled countertop):
The breaded eggplant ready to go into the oven:
I’m not usually a glass-half-empty kind of person, but I had a nagging feeling that this dish was going to disappoint me like my failed ratatouille. So when I first took the eggplant out of the oven, I was surprised by how amazing it smelled. And with the first bite, I was even more shocked that the eggplant wasn’t just good, it was awesome! I ate everything without even offering a bite to my husband (he usually declines anyway, but I didn’t want to take the chance that he might accept the offer this time).
So I guess I owe eggplant a big apology. As it turns out, I have been judging it too harshly. I guess I have a lot of making up to do
- 1 medium-sized American (globe) eggplant, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
- sea salt, as needed, plus 1tsp.
- 1 rounded cup almond flour (or gluten-free flour of choice)
- 1-2 cups almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
- 2 slices of gluten-free bread (I used millet bread), toasted and ground into crumbs using a food processor
- ½ Tbs. dried oregano
- ½ Tbs. dried thyme
- pepper, as needed
- olive oil (in a sprayer to coat the breaded eggplant)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a large baking dish into the oven to heat up (this will help to crisp the outside of the eggplant when it’s cooked).
- Slice the eggplant into rounds. Generously coat the eggplant slices in salt and allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes to “sweat” out the bitter juices. After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry.
- Mix the bread crumbs with the oregano, thyme, 1 tsp. of sea salt, and pepper.
- Create a breading station (using shallow bowls or rimmed plates) in this order: almond flour, almond milk and bread crumbs.
- One slice of eggplant at a time, coat each side in the flour, then in the almond milk, and, lastly, in the bread crumbs, making sure that plenty of the bread crumbs stick to the eggplant. Once the slices are coated, place them on a sheet of parchment paper.
- When all of the eggplant slices are breaded and on the parchment paper, spray each one generously on both sides with olive oil.
- Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the heated baking sheet and place into the oven to cook. Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure the bread crumbs have darkened in color and, when ready, remove the eggplant from the oven.
- Serve with homemade* or store-bought marinara sauce. Enjoy!