Eggplant parmesan has always been one of my favorite foods, but when I’m out at restaurants I never get to order it because of the breadcrumbs! The fact that I can create a delicious gluten and dairy free version makes me so happy!
I bake the eggplant instead of frying it to keep the calories and fat down. I’m not usually that calorie/fat conscious when I’m cooking, but when you fry the eggplant it soaks up endless amounts of oil! We want to avoid eating too much fat at once, since your liver has to process all of that and it puts stress on your body. I’ve done it both ways and I promise baking it like this is just as delicious!
Eggplant: health and beauty food or toxic nightshade?
We think of whole plant foods as the simple building blocks of our diet. But in reality the chemical makeup of plants is anything but simple – the carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals we often use to describe them are just a small part of the full picture. We know of over 150 non-nutrient substances, for example, just in the seemingly simple white potato!
These non-nutrient substances have the power to affect the body and mind in varying ways; some positive, some negative. When the effects are generally mostly negative, we call the plant toxic; when they’re mostly positive, we accept the plant into the mainstream food culture.
Often, though, it’s not entirely clear cut which box a plant should go into. Take eggplant. It’s arguably a great health and beauty food – it’s low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. (You can see the antioxidants in the dark purple skin!)
But it’s also a member of the nightshade family, most of which is actually inedible because it’s so toxic. That’s because chemical compounds in nightshades, like alkaloids and lectins, act as a natural pesticide to deter insects and mold. And these compounds can cause joint paint or exacerbate arthritis in some people.
In the edible nightshades, such as white potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes, these compounds are present in much smaller amounts, and are mostly in the leaves and stems, which we don’t eat. Cooking reduces them as well. And it’s thought that in a healthy digestive system, these compounds can actually have healing affects.
So should you eat eggplant? If you have an autoimmune disease or suffer from joint pain or arthritis, maybe not. But for the majority of us who are in good general health, nightshades are very beneficial. As always, listen to your body and see how it responds to what you eat. For me eggplant is fine and super delicious!
Total cooking time of a little over an hour.
Ingredients to gather:
- 2 eggplants
- 3 eggs
- Culinary coconut milk (Look for this in the boxed dairy free milk section)
- 2 cups of almond meal (or flour – this is just ground up almonds, any health food store will have this)
- 2 tablespoons each of oregano and basil; fresh basil for garnish
- 24 oz. jar of marinara sauce, or 3-4 cups (I like Organico Bello in tomato basil)
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
Equipment to gather:
- 9×13 baking pan
- Two baking sheets
First, salt your eggplant
Don’t skip this step! This will make your eggplant taste less bitter and have a tender and soft consistency. Cut your eggplant into thin rounds, and place in a bowl or stack on a paper towel, salting each piece. If you place in a bowl, just mix up the eggplant halfway through so that the salt is distributed evenly. Let sit for about 15 – 20 minutes. You’ll start to see the eggplant “sweat” as the salt draws out moisture. When you’re ready to move onto the next step, press both sides of each eggplant slice with paper towels to remove most of the salt and moisture.
“Bread” your eggplant
Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and grease two baking sheets with a spoonful of coconut oil each.
Put three eggs and 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a bowl, and mix with a fork. (Coconut milk should be refrigerated for at least an hour before you cook so all the good fat rises to the top. If you’re using a can of coconut milk this is essential.)
In another bowl, put two cups of almond meal, 2 tablespoons oregano and 2 tablespoons basil and mix.
Coat an eggplant round in the egg batter, and let the excess drip off. Lightly coat with the almond meal and place on the baking sheet. When you’ve breaded all the eggplant, bake for about 35 minutes until the slices start to brown, turning halfway through. Take out of the oven and reset it to 400 degrees.
Build your layers
Combine the marinara sauce and 2/3 cup of coconut milk to taste (you can add more depending on how creamy you want it). Arrange your breaded eggplant in a 9×13 baking dish and cover with some of the marinara sauce and coconut milk. Repeat with your remaining eggplant and sauce and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
When you’re ready to enjoy it, top your eggplant with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt and pepper, and some fresh basil.
Yum!! I think this actually tastes better on the second or third day after you make it and it’ll stay good in the fridge for a good five days. Can’t wait for you to try this – let me know what you think!