Eggplant is an underappreciated vegetable. Often paired with heavy sauces and tons of cheese in the case of eggplant Parm, eggplant rollatini, and vegetarian moussaka, this casserole skips out on the dairy and takes a vegan approach to preparing dinner. Inspired by our classic ratatouille and savory vegan green bean casserole, we salt the eggplant before cooking it in olive oil and pair it with an almond milk-based roux for an extremely creamy bite.
To add substance to the dish, we layer the casserole dish with brown rice, then with spiced, soy-glazed chickpeas before adding in the tender, paprika-spiked eggplant. To maximize your time in the kitchen, prep the eggplant first before continuing to prep all the other ingredients. To properly tenderize the eggplant, it needs to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour with a light sprinkling of salt.
When choosing your eggplant, we recommend going with Chinese eggplants, which cook into softer, creamier bites than the tougher, seedier Italian variety. Adding umami to vegan dishes relies on carefully choosing your spices. In our case, we build flavor in a single skillet by cooking in stages, layering salt, MSG, spices, and sugar together to build golden fond on the bottom of the skillet. This accumulation of flavor is then released when we make the mushroom roux as our final component for the casserole, lifted off the bottom of the skillet as we stir and incorporate it while streaming in almond milk.
Finally, a simple but totally optional panko topping will add a toasty layer of crunch for additional texture. Note that while the saucepan will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, the topping will not stay crunchy!
Once you’ve made a batch of this pan, please drop us a comment down below and let us know how you liked it.
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6 – 8
large Chinese eggplants, cut into 1/2″ cubes
extra virgin olive oil, divided
small red onion, finely chopped
cloves garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
(15.5-oz.) can chickpeas, drained
reduced-sodium soy sauce
chopped fresh parsley, divided
mushrooms, finely chopped
all purpose flour
panko bread crumbs
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- In a colander placed over a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit about 30 minutes, then squeeze off excess moisture and pat dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, brush a 13″-by-9″ baking dish with 2 tablespoons oil and spread rice in an even layer.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, fennel, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion turns translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add chickpeas, soy sauce, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chickpea mixture to baking dish; spread in an even layer.
- In same skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add drained eggplant, paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and creamy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in MSG, and transfer to baking dish; spread in an even layer.
- Preheat oven to 375°. In same skillet over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Drizzle all over eggplant mixture.
- In a small bowl, toss panko, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and remaining parsley and 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle over eggplant mixture.
- Bake casserole until panko is golden, about 30 minutes.
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