All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016
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Photo from The Iron You.
The photo just above is from the wonderful blog – The Iron You. It is their Eggplant Parm Rice Casserole and it is that recipe that inspired mine here. There are a few subtle changes but the primary difference is that I used cauliflower rice rather than real rice. That way – this dish is very light & nearly guiltless. Is is very easy to make & comes together in less than 45-60 minutes – 30 of which are in the oven. It is a surprisingly tasty recipe & chock full of fresh vegetables. Use vegan cheeses, if you prefer. There are enough flavors at play here that I think this dish would work very well vegan-style.
Eggplant Parmesan Casserole with Cauliflower Rice (Vegetarian or Vegan)
1 large head of cauliflower
2 eggplants – cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup basil – chopped
2 large shallots (or one small onion) – diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes – quartered
2-3 cups grated mozzarella (or vegan alternative) – according to your preference (I used 3 cups)
1-2 cups grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative) – according to your preference (I used 2 cups real Parmesan – I would have used less of a vegan Parm)
1 TBS oregano
1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup vegetable stock
Parsley or basil – chopped as garnish
If you have a grill or grill pan, spray some olive oil on the eggplant (or toss them in a light coating of olive oil or dressing) & grill on each side until a bit charred & soft. Set aside.
If you do not have a grill or grill pan – follow Iron You’s oven method directions: Preheat oven to 400°F and place a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them with vegetable oil. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with cold water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until it dissolves completely.
Add eggplant slices and let them sit for at least 20 minutes to draw out the bitterness. Fish the eggplant slices out of the water, pat them dry, and arrange them on a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the slices turn deep brown on top.
Remove the slices from the baking sheets and carefully transfer them on a plate to cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Cut the florets from the cauliflower & either grate them on a box grater or using the grater of your food processor (the FAR neater way to go). Set aside.
Toss the tomatoes with basil, a pinch or S&P & the oregano & set aside.
Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a large frying pan (large enough to hold all the cauliflower rice) & saute the shallots or onion until soft. Add crushed red pepper (if using) and the cauliflower rice & the stock. Over high heat – saute until the cauliflower is soft & the bulk of the stock has evaporated. Stir in the tomato & basil mix.
Grease a casserole pan (I used cooking spray) and layer 1/3 of the rice on the bottom. Top with half the eggplant and 1/3 of the cheese. Add another 1/3 of the rice, remaining eggplant and 1/3 of the cheese. Top with a final layer of rice & cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly or browned.
Let sit for 10 minutes & then serve with parsley or basil.