Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Butternut Squash-Eggplant Parmesan

On cold winter days, nothing is better than a thick, gooey casserole, baked for a long time in the oven and served hot and bubbly. My take on eggplant parmesan includes layers of eggplant and butternut squash, to create another layer of texture and flavor.

Crispy layers of pan-fried eggplant, coated in breadcrumbs and herbs and layers of roasted squash with thyme and fresh basil. Homemade spicy tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese coat everything in between and create a gooey, fresh parmesan.

Butternut Squash-Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4-1/2" discs
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 1/4-1/2" discs
canola spray
1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cup italian style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbl dried oregano
1 tbl dried thyme
2 cups vegetable oil
Tomato Sauce
3 cups vegan Mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Lay the eggplant discs in a colander and toss with salt. Sit and let drain for 45 minutes to one hour to allow all the excess moisture and bitter flavor to come out of the eggplant. Try not to skip this step, it really makes a difference! Pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and coat with canola spray. Coat the butternut discs in oil, salt, pepper and thyme and roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Set aside.
Assemble a dredging station with one plate of breadcrumbs, one container with milk and one with flour, oregano, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Dip the eggplant slices in the flour first, then milk, then in the breadcrumbs and set aside until all are done.
Preheat a pan with the vegetable oil to 375. Add a single layer of eggplant discs and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt.
Make sure to reheat the oil back to 375 before adding more eggplant again.

Tomato Sauce

3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slices
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbl organic sugar
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 large basil leaves, whole

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and saute the onions with salt and pepper until soft and translucent, 7 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and sugar and cook for 3 more minutes to toast the garlic. Add the tomatoes and basil leaves and bring to a simmer. Saute for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and taste for more seasonings.
Set aside to cool. When ready to assemble, remove the basil leaves and discard.

To assemble
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spoon some tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Put one layer of squash down and sprinkle with some basil. Top with sauce. Add a layer of eggplant and top with cheese then a layer of sauce. Continue with this until everything is in the dish, ending with the eggplant on top. Press everything down to compact. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake for 35 minutes until bubbly.
Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown and melt the top layer of cheese.

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