comfort food · dinner · Eggplant · Italian · Lasagna · Vegetables · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Eggplant Parmesan and Being Basic

It’s prime farmer’s market season, so T and I have been going wild with the fresh produce. In addition to a huge haul at the farmer’s market the other week, my friend also gave me a ton of shit from her garden. I was PSYCHED. She gave me these beautiful little chubby eggplants, and I was bound and determined to make eggplant parmesan. Except it was hot as fuck outside, so I wasn’t so into frying everything in a pan. It takes fucking 45 minutes just to get the eggplant ready to layer, and I was not fucking having it. Plus, as you recall from my corn fritters fiasco, I’m fucking terrified of hot oil. That shit jumps everywhere, and my anxiety just cannot.IMG_20180818_155711

Aren’t they adorable?

T was over when I was making this, tolerating not only my need to constantly have a project, but also my love of the Bachelor in Paradise. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I can be real basic. Case in point: I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season this morning, but I digress. We’ve been watching Bachelor in Paradise more than I care to admit, but, in our defense, we only just discovered it. We had a similar obsession with Naked and Afraid a couple of months ago. Watching people willingly put themselves in harms way? Sign me the fuck up. I love that shit. I love when they cry on the show about how it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done, and boo-hoo poor them. Like, bitch, please. You literally signed up for this your damn self. No one held a gun to your head. And you’re never in any real danger, because the crew is right fucking next to you. I have similar reactions to Bachelor in Paradise when they cry about their boo kissing someone else. I mean, they’ve been on one fucking date. Also… isn’t that the whole point?! If you don’t fuck your way through that show, it seems like you’re doing it wrong. What do I know, though? I found love on Tinder. Maybe it’s possible to find it on TV, too (insert eye-roll emoji).

The friend that gave me the eggplants also gave me a tons of cucumbers, a mutant zucchini, and a bunch of tomatoes. I pickled and baked my way through that weekend, and then had a panic attack Sunday night when I realized I wouldn’t have time to finish everything and that some of the produce will inevitably go bad. We all have to accept that this is going to happen, and calm the fuck down. When all was said and done, I only ended up wasting 5 cucumbers. This sounds like a lot, but I was given BAGS OF THEM. So, basically, I fucking killed it that weekend. But there was no telling me that Sunday night when I was in full-blown panic mode, sobbing on the phone with T. He was like, “Breathe. You need to just sit down and watch some Bachelor.”

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Eggplant Parmesan

1-2 eggplants, sliced into ~1/2″ rounds

Lots of Mozzarella (LOTSSSSSS), shredded or thinly sliced

1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce*

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper

Take your sliced eggplant, and layer it over some paper towels. Sprinkle some salt on both sides, and let ’em sit for something like 20 minutes. This draws out the water. We don’t want soggy eggplant parm, right?

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and a large baking sheet. Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Dip the eggplant, one by one, into the egg, then the bread crumbs. Make sure to thoroughly coat everything. Place them in onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once they’re done, you’ll start layering. In the 8 x 8 baking dish, first spread out about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce. Place a few of the eggplant slices over that, then more sauce, then cheese, then eggplant, then sauce, cheese, eggplant, etc. End with the cheese. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and gooey. You can either slice it like lasagna, or scoop up individual slices. I was trying the individual slice method, but I don’t recommend it.  Baking this took way longer than it should have, and that is when I discovered that my oven runs cold. It turned out way better when I made it at T’s place, but his lighting is for shit.

Serving suggestions: over pasta (super carb-y), with a side salad (keeping it light), with some buttery garlic bread (extra super carb-y), or just on it’s own. Now that the weather has cooled down in Minneapolis, this is the perfect time to start carb-loading. It’s also less of a pain in the ass to have the oven on.

*It can be nice if you saute some other veggies and add it to the sauce (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, etc). Also, it should be noted that I did not use nearly enough sauce (or cheese) in the pictures. Don’t be like me. Sauce it up.

dinner · easy · gluten free · healthy · Lasagna · lunch · mushrooms · quick · travel · vacation · vegan · Vegetables · vegetarian

Vegan “Lasagna” and Nola

I spent Labor Day weekend exploring New Orleans with my Brazilian friend, Humberto, and a handful of his friends. Humberto and I met in NYC 8-9 years ago, where we became fast friends while working together at Georgia’s Cafe (which was both the best and worst job ever). We were roommates for about a year in a gigantic apartment facing the Hudson River in Harlem. Seriously, the place was unbelievable. It was so big that it came with a piano that lived in the hallway… and it wasn’t even in the way. We used it as a bar, because we’re classy motherfuckers. The apartment also came with a floral futon mattress (naturally) and a TV with a pink and green screen, among other miscellaneous shit.

Seriously, this is how we lived for months.

Humberto called it a “Bohemian lifestyle.” We were both too poor at the time to do anything about it. The other girl we were living with (the place belonged to her parents) and I spend 4 straight weekends at Ikea getting new shit for the apartment. That’s where I finally got my bedroom stuff (I was sleeping on an air mattress like a true Bohemian princess), but I don’t remember us getting much else in the way of furniture. After a few months of this nonsense, I started scouring Craigslist for cheap furniture. I only spent about $150, but was able to turn the place into this…

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It was one of my proudest accomplishments.

Humberto moved back home to Brazil in May of 2010. I cried like a baby at my sad office job, but hid it well from my demon bosses (that’s you, Mau and Peter… fuckers). As the years passed, I honestly wasn’t sure we’d see each other again. Then, about 6 weeks ago he messaged me on Facebook asking if I wanted to meet up in New Orleans.

Well, I’d never been to New Orleans before, so I checked my work schedule, found a cheap flight, and said HELL YES.

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Aren’t we the cutest?

We had a great fucking time. I took a vacation from my vegetarianism and became a pescatarian (that means that I could eat fish, for those of you that aren’t too bright) for a few days. Louisiana is all about seafood, right? So I was there to eat me some fucking classic New Orleans dishes. I had crawfish étouffée, seafood gumbo, a fried oyster po boy, and some motherfuckin’ catfish. Everything I ate was fucking drool-worthy, but the food at Deanie’s was especially delectable (the seafood gumbo was fucking to-die-for).

Oh, and we also drank our faces off (or, at least I did). The novelty of drinking on the street prompted me to purchase a “fish bowl” at one point. That shit is heavy! It was literally a gallon of fucking liquid (okay, maybe it was figuratively a gallon but whatthefuckeever). I drank maybe a third of it before I was too full, and also too tired from holding it up to my mouth (there’s an inappropriate joke in there somewhere). Humberto and his friend, Carolina, ended up drinking the rest for me. He was all, “Why would you buy that?!” And I was like, “Because NEW ORLEANS.”

I mean, obviously.

They somehow also got me to dance. I don’t dance. But it was Southern Decadence (their LGBTQ+ festival) and everyone was dancing. It couldn’t be helped. So I set aside my pride and shook my booty. I highly recommend a little booty shake to everyone.

Everyone had to go back to reality on Monday afternoon… except me. I don’t work on Tuesdays, so I stayed behind for an extra day and wandered around the city on my own. It’s where I got my best eating and shopping done. I stayed in an Airbnb for the first time ever, and felt like a real fucking grown-up. Plus, after all that noise and shared space… it felt downright luxurious to lay down in a quiet room by myself.

Some of the phenomenal food I encountered.

On our last day together, walking down the street near Cafe du Monde, Humbero said to me (in his adorable Brazilian accent), “I’ll be waiting for you in Brazil, Kel-Kel. Don’t take too long.” hahaha I love the way he worded that. I literally pictured him checking the airport every day for years.

By the time I got home, I was ready to get back to my vegetarian ways, in addition to lightening up my meals a bit. What’s nice about this vegan “lasagna” is that it reads like a hearty, heavy meal… but leaves you feeling light. I originally found this recipe on Dr. Mark Hyman’s website, but I’ve tweaked it a little bit. The original recipe calls for an egg in the cashew “cheese,” but that really didn’t add anything to it. I had no idea why it was included at all, so I omitted it. I also opted to add mushrooms, onions, spinach, and some garlic powder to add more flavor. I honestly thought this was going to taste like shit (I feel like I always say that about vegan recipes… maybe I need to stop being such a judgmental bitch), but it really is delicious. Try it out for yourself. Let me know if you miss the cheese (you won’t). The first time I made this I ended up dousing it in parmesan, because I hadn’t added any garlic or onions. It was kind of bland, but this version is bursting with flavor. I promise.

Vegan Roasted Veggie “Lasagna”

For the cashew “cheese”:

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least 1 hour, or at room temp for 24 hours then drained

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons lemon juice

 

For the lasagna:

1 eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 red bell pepper (I used green, but red would have been prettier), sliced into large squares (as in, the entire side of the pepper)

1 cup of mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1 large handful of spinach

Garlic powder (or one clove of fresh garlic, minced)

1 can (15oz) crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

 

For the cashew “cheese”:’

Blend everything together in a blender or food processor. It should be the consistency of ricotta cheese. If you’re making it ahead, seal it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the lasagna:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, saute mushrooms and onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until mushrooms have browned slightly and onions are translucent. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the spinach. Continue to cook while stirring consistently. Once spinach has wilted, remove from heat.

Drizzle the eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and arrange on 2 large baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Allow to cool.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble, spread about 1/4 of the “cheese” on the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 baking dish. Top with a big scoop of the crushed tomatoes, and layer the roasted eggplant, zucchini, and pepper however you’d like to just cover the bottom of the pan. Add more “cheese,” crushed tomatoes, and a scoop of the mushrooms/onions/spinach mixture. Layer more of the roasted veggies. Continue layering until you run out of ingredients, ending with the crushed tomatoes on top.

Say yes to adventures with old friends you haven’t seen in years! Say no to fish bowls.

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Don’t be like me. This was a mistake.