DDD #81 – Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni in Vodka Sauce

Leave a comment

All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

vromans front

vromans back

Click the image above to watch the video.

A long, long time ago, I had a boyfriend.  And that boyfriend had – egads! – ex-girlfriends.  One of these ex-girlfriends was (and remains) a famous actress.  A beautiful, famous actress.  She had been reaching out to him to “reconnect.”  My boyfriend at the time announced that he would be having dinner with this ex at some point in the future.  I informed him that I would be attending this dinner myself.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “Nothing’s going on,” he explained.  “She just wants to get together.  We are friends.”  I explained that, as his live-in girlfriend, his friends should be my friends, too, and asked that if everything was so innocent, why couldn’t he just invite her over to our home for dinner.

It took a bit but I won this debate.  The invitation was extended & then the pressure was on.  ME.  On me because I had to cook the damned dinner – a dinner to impress this chick.  I wanted to impress her with both my culinary skills & with the level of our domesticity.  It was a passive-aggressive counter-attack to what I sensed were not entirely innocent intentions on her part.

This was pre-internet and pre-40 million cooking shows – so I had only my trusty collection of cookbooks to consult for ideas.  After hours of deliberating – I ended up making two dishes I had never made before – always very dangerous if making a good impression is your top priority.  I made a two-color soup much like this one (this one here is not my creation):


Photo borrowed from HERE.

And I made an eggplant timbale as shown here in this blog.  As fate would have it, my dinner was a huge success & the ex-girlfriend was smart & funny & charming & the two of us were quickly gabbing like old friends, nearly cutting my boyfriend from the conversation completely.

And – for the record, ladies (and gents) – this ex-girlfriend never “reached out” to “touch base” again – to either me or my boyfriend.  So – my instincts had been correct.  She had been perhaps interested in rekindling more than just old times.  But – to her credit – once she met me, she was forever respectful and was never again a threat to our domestic bliss.

So – if you ever need to impress someone or scare off some interested interloper from meddling with your love life – serve them this whopper of a dish.  It is far easier to make than folks guess and it tastes delicious – and it is classier than a slap fight & hair pulling.

Also – as an aside, I bought this fucking gigantic can (I know canned tomatoes are bad but sometimes you gotta bend rules) of tomato sauce for $2.69.  That is practically free!  It makes 12 cups of whatever the Hell sauce you are making.  I made arrabbiata (surprise, surprise) and I froze 8 cups of it & used 4 cups of it to make the vodka sauce in this recipe.

Vodka Sauce – large quantity


2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 small onion – diced

1/2 cup vodka (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves – chopped

1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup chopped basil

1 cup peas – optional

S&P to taste

For a pink sauce (optional) – 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese


Heat oil & saute the onion until soft.  Add garlic for one minute then add the vodka.  Cook on high a minute & then add the other ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 30 minutes or more.  For a pink sauce – add 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese.


Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni & Vodka Sauce



1 pound rigatoni (or other pasta) – cooked & drained

8 oz vegan mozzarella

4 large eggplants

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/8 cup vegan Parmesan

Chopped tomato or chopped fresh parsley or basil – as garnish


Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Slice the eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.  You can go the long way or the other way – creating round disks.  (OPTIONAL – Place in colanders or on paper towels & sprinkle with salt on both sides.  Let the eggplants drain for about 30 minutes.  This not only helps remove moisture from the eggplant but also minimizes bitterness. I skipped this step.)


You can either rub olive oil into your eggplant before grilling or you can dip them in an Italian salad dressing – really just to lubricate them so they do not stick to the grilling surface & tear apart.  Grill (a grill pan works, too) the eggplant until they get nice grill marks on one side, turn them & repeat.  Remove & set aside.


Cook the rigatoni according to the box directions.  Err on the side of under-cooking – as they will cook more in the oven.  Drain the rigatoni & mix in a bowl with cheeses & 2 or more cups of vodka sauce.  Add more sauce if you like a really wet pasta.  You will have extra vodka sauce that you can use to add as a garnish to the finished slices of timbale or to use in another recipe.  It might be nice to have extra sauce for the timbale when you are in the leftovers phase.



Grease a spring form pan & then put some bread crumbs & vegan Parmesan inside.  Swirl the pan to coat all the surfaces.  Throw any unstuck bread crumbs/cheese away.


Line the inside of the pan with grilled eggplant.  You can either do as I did or, if you have circular disks, fan them on the bottom of the pan & then stick some, overlapping, up on the sides.  However you do it – try to cover every part of the pan with eggplant.  Pour the pasta & vodka sauce & cheese mix in – layering in extra cheese, if you fancy.  Top with any remaining eggplant slices.


Cover the timbale in foil & place some heavy dishes on top & put in the fridge to compress for about 15 minutes.


Then – bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Let rest, unmolested, for at least 15 minutes and then put a serving dish on top of the timbale, flip the whole thing over & then very carefully – remove the spring form pan.


Garnish with either grated Parmesan or extra vodka sauce.

DDD #47 – Vegan Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry

Leave a comment

All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)


All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.


9-10-14 (88)

9-10-14 (57)


vromans back

Click the image below to watch a video for this recipe.

OK – this dish is really easy to make & wildly delicious!  And – you get to smoke it yourself in just five minutes!  This is a really cool new trick I learned & I cannot wait to find new ways to use it.

All you need is a piece of natural charcoal (without lighter fluid or chemicals) – like this:

9-10-14 (1)

You heat it up on the stove – like this:

9-10-14 (2)

9-10-14 (22)

There is one more step but I will get back to that later.  There are a few steps involved in the overall recipe but all are very easy!  And the only “exotic” ingredient is the garam masala.  If you cannot find it or don’t feel like looking for it – you can make it from stuff you likely already have.  Look for recipes HERE.

This recipe really makes quite a lot of this stuff – enough for four – more if you serve it with rice or naan or roti.   If you don’t have lots of folks to feed & don’t want yummy leftovers – cut the recipe in half – at least.  I like my Indian food very flavorful & I tend to double or triple the amount of spices that traditional recipes typically suggest.  I will post this recipe with a suggested amount of each thing & then tell you what I used.  This dish is spicy but not crazy spicy – but I do like heat.  If you have a more tender palate – be conservative.

9-10-14 (51)

9-10-14 (69)

Oh – and check out this tip on how to cut an onion without crying!

Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry

Feeds 4 generously – served with rice


2 small onions – diced

1 red bell pepper – seeded & diced

6 medium tomatoes

30 raw almonds (or raw cashews)

3+ TBS vegan butter

2 lb eggplant (any variety) – cubed

1-2 TBS ginger – minced (I used 2 but mine was jarred.  Maybe go lighter if you are using freshly grated ginger)

4-10 garlic cloves – minced (I used 10)

1-2 TBS garam masala (I used 1)

1-3 tsp chili powder (I used 1)

Cilantro – as garnish

(serve with steamed rice or naan or roti or tortillas)

for smoking the eggplant curry

1 lump of coal about the size of a lemon or larger

2 TBS olive or vegetable oil

1 small METAL bowl to safely hold the hot charcoal

You also need a large saute pan & some sort of cover.  I used my wok cover.

9-10-14 (52)

9-10-14 (61)


Soak the nuts in some water for 5 minutes.  I used this metal dog food dish & used it again later in the smoking process.

9-10-14 (3)

(In the video version – I did not peel the tomatoes so feel free to skip this step.)  Meanwhile – poke some holes in your tomatoes with the tip of a knife & drop them into boiling water.  After a few minutes – you will see the skins curling off.  Drain & run under cool water until you can handle them without burning yourself.  Then core them.

9-10-14 (5)

9-10-14 (8)

Drain the nuts & then puree them in a blender with the tomatoes.  Set aside.

9-10-14 (10)

9-10-14 (13)

Heat 3 TBS of vegan butter or olive oil in a large saute pan – large enough to hold ALL the ingredients.   Over high heat – saute the onions & red bell pepper & eggplant.  Saute until the eggplant begins to brown.  Add more vegan butter or olive oil if needed.  This should take about 10 minutes.

9-10-14 (4)

9-10-14 (6)

9-10-14 (7)

9-10-14 (12)

9-10-14 (14)

Add the garam masala & chili powder & the ginger – stir to incorporate.  Add the garlic & stir for one minute – then add the tomato puree.  Boil this for about 5-7 minutes until it thickens.  If it gets too thick – add a bit of water.

When it looks about like this:

9-10-14 (17)

9-10-14 (23)

TURN OFF THE HEAT & put your metal bowl in the center of the pan.

Now – heat up the charcoal – like this:

9-10-14 (22)

When it is red hot or graying on the outside – USE METAL TONGS & put it in the bowl in the center of your curry.  Then pour some olive or vegetable oil on it  It will immediately begin smoking so – if you have a hood with vents – turn them on.   Quickly – cover it up with a pot cover of some sort.  I used my old & very beaten up wok cover.

9-10-14 (25)

9-10-14 (28)

9-10-14 (29)

Let this sit for 5-10 minutes & let the smoke work its magic.  I went 6 minutes because I was afraid it would be too smoky.  It wasn’t.  In the future – I will go for ten minutes.  CAREFULLY remove the metal bowl – with two pairs of tongs.  DO NOT BURN YOURSELF!

DEFINITELY season this with salt.  Do not be shy – but add it in increments.  Salt is under-rated as a spice.

Then – just serve this over some rice or with naan or a tortilla or roti – garnished with some cilantro.

Awesome?  Right?

9-10-14 (54)

9-10-14 (38)

9-10-14 (43)

9-10-14 (53)

DDD Ep. #22 – 10-Ingredient Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Leave a comment

All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

1-27-16 (52)

1-27-16 (66)


vromans back

1-27-16 (47)

1-27-16 (54) copy

1-27-16 (70)

I am reposting this recipe because there is now a DDD video to accompany it.  Please click through & subscribe to my channel.

Honest to God – this might be the most fucking delicious vegan meal I have ever made!  Seriously!  And to think it only came together because I had a fridge full of random leftovers & ingredients that I needed to be done with.  I had a package of Tofutti American cheese, several slices of their mozzarella cheese (both of which I totally shit-talked in my vegan cheese review) & some leftover pasta.  Oh – and two Chinese eggplants.

1-27-16 (5)

1-27-16 (14)

1-27-16 (9)

1-27-16 (8)

I actually had this selection of vegan cheeses – seen above.  I opted to use the individual slices first because 1) they were getting old and 2) I thought this dish would make better use of (read: mask) their less than fabulous flavor.  Ultimately – I did use some of the other two cheeses, as well.  The result is AMAZING!  You can use whatever vegan cheeses you prefer but you are going to need about a pound of various cheeses – before all is said & done.

I used Chinese eggplant & I recommend them because they are less bitter & carry less moisture than regular eggplant.

I used nutritional yeast but a vegan Parmesan would also work.  Or use neither.

This takes a few steps but all are simple & the result is a decadent feast that nobody would ever guess was vegan – at least with this particular combination of cheeses.  I find some vegan cheeses taste more fake than others – so – the brands you use will matter – but I am certain lots of other brands would be just as yummy – especially the Field Roast Chao cheeses – my favorite of the vegan cheeses I have tried.

Whatever you do – get it together to make this – at least once.  It really is killer!

1-27-16 (43)

1-27-16 (61)

10-Ingredient Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Feeds 4-6 depending on appetites


4+ cups or so of cooked pasta

2 Chinese eggplant (or other variety) – sliced 1/2″ thick

1 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or vegan Parmesan)

1 TBS dry parsley

8 oz (or 12 individual slices) vegan American or cheddar cheese (or a mix) – PLUS SOME  EXTRA – just in case

4 oz (or 6 individual slices) vegan mozzarella – PLUS SOME  EXTRA – just in case

(Extra grated vegan cheese to top the casserole – one that melts would be prettiest)

2 – 3 cups unsweetened vegan milk

1 1/2 – 2 cups pasta sauce (I used Rao’s Arrabbiata)

Basil or parsley (or both) – chopped for garnish

Olive oil

1-27-16 (11)

1-27-16 (12)

1-27-16 (13)


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast & dry parsley in a bowl.  Put about 1/2 cup milk in another bowl.  Heat some olive oil in a frying pan.  Dunk the eggplant rounds in the milk & then through the breadcrumbs and drop into the hot oil.  They should brown pretty quickly.  Flip & brown the other side.  Put on a cooking sheet & into the oven while you repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.  You will likely need to wipe out the burnt breadcrumbs & add more oil with each batch.

1-27-16 (15)

1-27-16 (16)

1-27-16 (17)

1-27-16 (19)

In a stock pot, melt the American and/or cheddar cheese.   Add vegan milk in small increments until it becomes creamy.   Stir in the pasta.  At this point – I decided it needed more cheese so I added two slices of this cheese (below) and a bit more milk & cooked it until it looked wet & yummy & creamy.   I am not giving exact directions as to the cheese-milk-pasta ratio because different cheeses might have more or less moisture – and everyone has a different idea of how wet mac & cheese should be.    I would suggest going a little wet – as the pasta & eggplant will absorb it & you won’t have a dry dish.

1-27-16 (7)

1-27-16 (20)

1-27-16 (21)

Look at that up there!!!!  Doesn’t that look just ridiculous?!  It was all I could do not to just start shoving it in my face.  But I used considerable will power & continued with the recipe.

So – when you get your pasta-cheese-milk ratio to where it looks creamy but still a bit wet (so it won’t dry out in cooking) – take it off the flame.

Grease a casserole pan & layer half the eggplant on the bottom.

1-27-16 (22)

1-27-16 (23)

Add another layer of eggplant with the rest of the slices & top with pasta sauce.

In the same pan you melted the cheese in – melt the mozzarella & pour it over your casserole & pop the pan into the oven.

1-27-16 (24)

1-27-16 (25)

1-27-16 (26)

1-27-16 (27)

At this point – I took my dogs for a walk – COMPLETELY forgetting I had this in the oven.  I think it needed 30-45 minutes in the 375 oven – but it got way more than that.  Don’t burn yours.  I kinda did.   Look – not so pretty.

1-27-16 (29)

1-27-16 (6)

1-27-16 (30)

So – in an effort to make it pretty again – I grated some of that cheese above onto it & popped it back into the oven for about ten minutes.  As you can see – it did little to make it prettier (that cheese did not want to melt) – but when I scooped it onto plates – it looked & SMELLED amazing!

So – maybe do not burn yours & it will be prettier but nobody needs to see it before it hits the plate, anyway.

So – scoop some onto plates & garnish with parsley and/or basil.  I swear – this will fool people out of suspecting it is vegan.  So yummy & comforting!

Waste no time & devour it!

1-27-16 (34)

1-27-16 (57)

1-27-16 (69)

DDD Ep. #10 – Vegan Punjabi Baingan Bharta – A Spicy Roasted Eggplant Dish from India with Basmati Rice

Leave a comment

All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)


All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.


vromans front

vromans back

I started this blog in July 2012 & this was one of the very first recipes I posted.  I ADORE this smoky & creamy Indian eggplant dish.  I am reposting the original post here because I just added this recipe to my new Youtube cooking show – Video Vegan.  Check out the video and, please,  subscribe to my channel.

From July 26, 2012:

I started experimenting with Indian food over twenty years ago – when I gave up eating meat.  I had more misses than hits & found out a few things the hard way – like finding out the Krishna’s do not use onion or garlic (essential ingredients – in my opinion) after spending $30 on a Krishna cookbook (this one – AVOID it – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lord-Krishnas-Cuisine-Vegetarian-Cooking/dp/0896470202).   Krishnas avoid onion & garlic for many surprising reasons – among them that garlic may “lead to lewd indulgences.”  (http://kurma.net/essays/e19.html)  This – alone – is reason enough to eat garlic all the time.   Anyway – I made Indian food every day for weeks on end.  I invited people over frequently – to sample my results.  Soon – they became reticent and later – exhibited outright defiance – and would only agree to come over & be fed on the condition I did NOT serve Indian food.  Not because it was always bad (though it often was) – but more because it just got to be kinda ridiculous.  We were all walking around reeking of curry.  Sad times.

Thankfully, I tell you those days are long gone.  I have broadened my vegetarian menu extensively and it is more likely to be pizza my guests object to having – yes, again – than Indian food.  This eggplant dish is always my favorite & my go-to item on any Indian menu.  If you hate eggplant – do not be alarmed.  This dish transforms eggplant into an unrecognizable mush that is so heavily seasoned – few could identify the primary ingredient without having been told.  Likewise – if you are among the unfortunate among us that loathe cilantro – and I know you are out there – the cilantro here, while important, gets lost in the blend of other flavors.  If you hate cilantro – it is not your fault.  Here is an article outlining why: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html.  Cilantro haters are in a similar category to those among us that know the agonies of “asparagus pee.”  Apparently – we ALL produce the smelly stuff – but only 22% can detect the scent…at least according to this article: http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/29/12463697-psst-asparagus-pee-are-you-in-the-club?lite.  I also found this tidbit – which explains it a different way:

Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg explained asparagus pee in their book,“Why Do Men Have Nipples?”.

“Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks,” they wrote. “The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system. Not all people have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some of you can eat all the asparagus you want without stinking up the place. One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people tested did.”

Anyway – use the damned cilantro.  It adds MUCH needed color to this dish & you will not be offended by its taste.  At least use a little.  OK?  Please?

This dish is spicy.  Genuinely so.  Lessen the quantity of serrano/jalapeno if spice irks you.  Add more if you are a spice freak.  Also know – I use WAY more of the other spices listed than most any other version of this recipe you will find.  This is a powerfully flavored version.  Also know – it is an AMAZING dieter’s dish because the only thing in it with any calorie count work mentioning is the 2 tablespoons of olive oil – and this recipe makes an ENORMOUS amount of this stuff.  I bet it could feed 6 or 8 folks – what with the rice addition and all.  A cup of eggplant has 20 calories.  2 TBS of olive oil have – GREAT CRIPES – I just looked it up!!  2 TBS of olive oil is 240 calories!  Jeez.  That explains a LOT about my ass & thighs.   Ok -still – Let’s call this 6 cups of eggplant & 2 TBS of olive oil – for a total of 360 calories for the ENTIRE RECIPE.  And it is delicious!

Again – this will make a LOT of this dish.  Be prepared for yummy leftovers.

One final note – broiling the eggplant the day before or way in advance (so they can cool) is very helpful, but not necessary.


Vegan Punjabi Baingan Bharta – A Spicy Roasted Eggplant Dish from India with Basmati Rice


5 medium eggplant

2 medium onions – diced

3 inch cube of fresh ginger – or 4 TBS jarred, minced ginger (fresh is better)

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS cumin SEEDS (not ground cumin)

1 large jalapeno – seeded & diced

2 large serrano chiles – seeded & diced

4 garlic cloves – crushed

4 medium tomatoes – diced

2 TBS garam masala (recipe here – if you cannot find it made: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-garam-masala/)

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Extra tomato or red bell pepper (pictured above) – diced very fine for garnish.  Garnish is important with this dish because it is really little more than a dark mush.  It needs prettifying more than your average bear.  Extra cilantro – chopped fine – can also be nice – instead or in addition.


Prick your eggplants all over with a fork.  Line a cookie sheet with foil & place the eggplant on it & into the oven.  Broil the eggplant about 5 inches from the flame – turning OFTEN – until they are bursting & blackened on all sides.  DO NOT FORGET TO PRICK THE EGGPLANTS or they WILL explode inside your oven & that will be one crime scene you will not want to clean up.



They will look like this when they are done.  It might take 20-30 minutes – depending on the size of your eggplant & your broiler.  You kinda can’t OVER do this – though you can under do it.  Err on the side of charring.  It adds flavor & makes removing the skin WAY easier!


Let the eggplant cool until they are safe to handle.  HOURS of cooling is best – unless you have Grandma hands & you are impervious to scalding hot eggplant juice.

Cut the green cap end off the eggplant & remove all the flesh from the charred skin (sounds gross).  The result should look kind of like this (looks gross):


Roughly chop this eggplant up & set it aside.

Heat the olive oil up in a pan.  When it is hot – add the cumin seeds.  Beware – they will sizzle & pop & some will jump out of the pan at you.  Ouch.


Once these are fragrant  – about a minute – add the chopped onion & fry until they are translucent & soften.  Add the garlic & ginger & serrano/jalapenos.


Saute this for another minute or two.

Add the chopped tomatoes.


Stir this a minute then add the garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric & salt.


Add the chopped eggplant.  Stir.  Chop the cilantro & add it to the mix & blend well.  Remove from heat.

Using a food processor or a blender – puree the entire mixture.  Return the puree to the pan to keep it warm on very low heat.  The pureeing isn’t essential but I think it delivers a more pleasing result and more completely fuses the flavors.  If you are unable to puree or choose not to – simply be sure to chop all the ingredients very finely before adding them to the recipe – especially the eggplant.  Hunks of soft eggplant can bum some people out.




2 cups basmati rice – rinsed several times in a colander

1 TBS olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

20 green cardamom pods (if you can get them)


Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Once hot – add the cumin seeds & the cardamom pods – again being wary of their popping & spitting.  I used 20 cardamom pods because mine were a bit old.  You might want to use fewer if yours are fresh & really pungent.  After a minute – add the rice & stir until it is all covered in oil & the spices are well blended.  Add 4 cups of water (or whatever ratio of rice to water your package suggests) & bring to a boil.  Use less water for firmer rice.  Once boiling – reduce heat to low & simmer, covered, for however long the rice package instructs you.  Remove from heat.  Fluff with a fork.

Serve the rice on individual plates.  Top with the Baingan Bharta & garnish with either finely diced tomato, red bell pepper – or extra cilantro.

Baked Vegetarian Penne Pasta alla Siciliana with Smoked Mozzarella & Grilled Eggplant

Leave a comment


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.






This is rich & comforting & easy to make.  I made the sauce but you could use a jar of your favorite kind.  I used real cheese – you can use a vegan alternative – or even omit it.    If you go with no cheese – there is no reason to bake it & you can serve it right from the stove top.  The real key to this is grilling the eggplant – to get rid of that texture & add a smokiness that adds to the autumnal flavors of this dish.

Baked Vegetarian Penna Pasta alla Siciliana with Smoked Mozzarella & Grilled Eggplant

Serve 4 well


1 lb dry pasta

Olive oil

1 eggplant – sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

28 oz chopped tomatoes

6-10 cherry tomatoes – quartered (optional)

1-6 garlic cloves (to taste) – chopped

8 oz smoked mozzarella – grated

1 cup regular (or more smoked) mozzarella – grated

1 tsp – 1 TBS crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 tsp oregano

1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil – chopped


Garnish: more grated cheese (Parmesan or Asiago), chopped fresh basil or parsley






Heat the oven (if you are using cheese) to 350 degrees.

Cook & drain the pasta.

Either brush the eggplant with olive oil r spray with cooking spray & grill (or a grill or grill pan) – for a few minutes on each side until they are nicely grilled.  Cool & chop.



Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a stock pan.  When hot – add the garlic & cook one minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed red pepper, oregano, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, basil & parsley.  Cook on low for a while until it thickens & the flavors meld.  Maybe 20 minutes or so.  Add the cooked pasta & toss.  If not using cheese – serve & garnish once it is heated through.








If using cheese – add the 8 oz grated smoked mozzarella & toss.  Put it into a greased casserole & top with the remaining cup of grated cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbling.

Garnish with cheese or herbs & serve!












Hearty & Spicy Vegan Eggplant & Mushroom Bolognese Pasta Sauce

Leave a comment


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

6-16-16 (103)

6-16-16 (81)


vromans back

6-16-16 (55)

6-16-16 (119)

I had a fridge chock full of produce & not enough days of cooking before me to get through it all without a lot of it going bad – so – I made this very thick & hearty tomato sauce.  It is a great way to use a ton of veggies & clean out that fridge.  Additionally – if you puree it or use an immersion blender – you can hide the veggies from kids & other finicky palates.

I grilled the eggplant first – to add a smokey flavor – but this is not necessary.  I used kale & collard greens – because I had them – but they are totally optional – or you could use spinach, instead.  You can eliminate a lot of the ingredients without a negative impact on this sauce so feel free to customize it.

I had a bunch of sage that I had frozen.  It worked really well in this sauce – so – if you have herbs that are going to spoil, put them in sandwich bags & freeze them for use in future sauces.

6-16-16 (26)

6-16-16 (47)

6-16-16 (91)

Hearty & Spicy Vegan Eggplant & Mushroom Bolognese Pasta Sauce

Makes a boatload – so either serve a large group or freeze some


9 oz vegan beef crumbles (I used Beyond Meat)

Olive oil

7 Japanese eggplants (or 3 large regular eggplants)

2 onions – diced

2 bell peppers – diced

2 large zucchini – chopped

4 jalapenos – diced (optional)

1 bunch kale – (optional) ribs removed, washed & chopped (or spinach)

1 bunch collard greens – (optional) ribs removed, washed & chopped fine (or spinach)

8 oz mushrooms – sliced

1/4 cup fresh sage – chopped

1-6 garlic cloves – chopped

1/2 cup tomato paste (1 small can)

3 (26 oz) containers of chopped & strained tomatoes – in any combination (I used 2 strained & 1 chopped)

1/4 cup vegan Parmesan (very, very optional)

1 TBS salt

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper (according to your tolerance for heat)

1 TBS dry parsley

1 TBS oregano

1 TBS thyme (I used fresh chopped)

1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped

GARNISH – Cooked pasta, fresh chopped parsley or basil

6-16-16 (8)

6-16-16 (16)

6-16-16 (30)

6-16-16 (33)

6-16-16 (35)

6-16-16 (78)

6-16-16 (122)


If you are grilling the eggplant – slice them & either spray them with cooking spray or brush them with olive oil & then grill them on both sides.  Set aside to cool – then chop.  Set aside.

6-16-16 (9)

6-16-16 (10)

6-16-16 (11) 6-16-16 (12)

6-16-16 (19)

Heat 2-3 TBS olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add onions & bell peppers & jalapenos.  Saute until softened.

6-16-16 (13)

6-16-16 (14)

Add the zucchini & mushrooms & saute until tender.  Stir in the chopped eggplant.

6-16-16 (15)

6-16-16 (17)

6-16-16 (22)

6-16-16 (24)

Add the greens you are using & fold in so they wilt.  Add the garlic & cook for a minute or two.

6-16-16 (25) 6-16-16 (27)

Add all the other ingredients – EXCEPT the beef crumbles.   Bring to a boil & then reduce the heat & simmer for about 30 minutes.  If it gets too thick, add water.

6-16-16 (28)

6-16-16 (29)

6-16-16 (31)

6-16-16 (38)

6-16-16 (40)

Now – if you are going to puree the sauce or use an immersion blender – now is the time.   Whatever you decide – pureed or not – add the beefy crumbles & heat through.

6-16-16 (34)

Season with S&P.

Toss some of the sauce with cooked pasta.  You will have a lot of sauce left over – unless you are feeding a very large group.  Garnish with basil and/or parsley.

6-16-16 (43)

6-16-16 (44)

6-16-16 (88)

6-16-16 (97)

6-16-16 (106)

6-16-16 (121)

Vegan Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Grilled Eggplant, Mushrooms & Spinach

Leave a comment


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

5-25-16 (86)

5-25-16 (79)


vromans back

5-25-16 (60)

5-25-16 (84)

5-25-16 (97)

Everybody has had stuffed cabbage but, typically, it is stuffed with a mix of meat & rice.  This recipe uses neither – though you could add some – if you wanted to.  This recipe is more rustic & lighter.   No carbs.  No animal products.  Just loads of veggies & sauce!   I had grilled eggplant in the fridge – leftover from a night of Grilled & Baked Eggplant Pizza Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Chiffonade – seen below.


If you have a grill pan or a grill where you can easily grill the eggplant – I recommend it because it adds a smokey char to the dish that is lovely – though not necessary.  If grilling the eggplant first sounds like a pain in the ass – blow it off & just cut your eggplant into small cubes

Grilled Eggplant


1 eggplant – sliced into rounds

Olive oil or some kind of oil & vinegar salad dressing


Dredge the eggplant through the olive oil or dressing & grill (either on a grill or in a grill pan) –  just to get some grill marks on them & cook out some moisture.  I did it on the grill & it took about 5-7 minutes – flipping the slices occasionally.  You can do this on your burners on the stove or in a grill pan or on a real grill – with or without oiling the slices.

5-25-16 (3)

5-25-16 (50)

5-25-16 (54)

5-25-16 (71)

UPDATE – after eating this for lunch – at dinner – I wanted something more substantial.  So – I added a bag of Beyond Meat crumbles & some grated cheese to the top before I reheated these guys.  AMAZING!

Vegan Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Grilled Eggplant, Mushrooms & Spinach

Serves 4 very well


1 head cabbage (I used Napa but any kind will work

Olive oil

1 eggplant – either grilled as outlined above or not – and, either way, cubed

1/2 lb mushrooms – sliced or chopped

2 tomatoes – diced

1 onion – diced

2 stalks green garlic or 1-4 garlic cloves – chopped

2+ cups fresh spinach

1 TBS dry parsley

1 TBS dry oregano

Crushed red pepper (to taste)


2-3 cups pasta sauce (homemade or jarred)

Fresh basil as garnish

OPTION – vegan or fresh mozzarella baked on top of these might be nice.  I opted not to use any – in an effort to keep these very healthy – but I bet it would compliment this dish nicely.  Additionally – adding some faux beef crumbles on top or underneath the rolls makes this dish more substantial.


5-25-16 (65)

5-25-16 (75)

5-25-16 (4)

5-25-16 (16)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Boil a large pot of water – deep enough for the head of cabbage.  Remove the cabbage core & drop the head into boiling water – whole.  With tongs – pluck out each leaf as it becomes tender & plunge into a bowl of ice water.

5-25-16 (6)

5-25-16 (7)

5-25-16 (15)

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.   Add the onions, mushrooms, tomatoes & eggplant.  Saute until the vegetables get tender.  Add garlic & spinach & stir until the spinach wilts.  Add the oregano, parsley, S&P and crushed red pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.

5-25-16 (9)

5-25-16 (11)

5-25-16 (13)

5-25-16 (14)

5-25-16 (17)

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan.  Place a cabbage leaf on a kitchen towel & scoop a few TBS of filling into it & roll it up.  I did not really bother with the ends but if you are good at making closed ends – knock yourself out.  Place in the casserole pan – seam-side down.  Continue until all the filling is used up.  Season the rolls with S&P.

5-25-16 (20)

Top with sauce – as much as suits your taste.  You might want t reserve some to add – warmed – to the finished rolls.  Bake for about 40 minutes.   Serve with additional warm sauce – if you like – and some fresh basil.

5-25-16 (26)

5-25-16 (33)

5-25-16 (46)

5-25-16 (52)

5-25-16 (80)

5-25-16 (88)