I’ve only been cooking with eggplant for a short time. I remember my mom or my dad trying to cook it when I was a kid, and I don’t remember liking it. You typically hear of eggplant parmesan, but not much else. I think eggplant is really pretty versatile. You just have to be cautious with it, because it will soak up a ton of moisture. It doesn’t have a distinct flavor on its own, so you can really pair it with just about anything.
So that chili powder I picked up at the farmers’ market? Turns out I got a bigger bargain than I thought. Not only did I get a large mason jar full of the stuff for only $7, but it is way hotter than anything I’ve ever purchased commercially. Normally in a dish like this I’d use two tablespoons or more and still not quite have the spice I’m looking for. With this stuff, I used one tablespoon and it was borderline “too spicy” for me. Note: I’m a big gigantic wuss when it comes to spice.
Also, remember to salt your eggplant and let it stand to draw some of the moisture out. The last couple of times I’ve cooked eggplant I haven’t done that, and now I remember why it’s a good idea. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how much water comes out. It may oxidize and turn brown just a little, but it’s nothing that is problematic.
In retrospect, the only thing I think would have made this dish better would have been some sliced avocado. I can’t eat the tomatoes, but my BF said the tomatoes were really good on it. Sort of made a sandwich out of it, with the eggplant as the bottom “bun” and the tomato as the top. You could also use eggplant slices on the top and bottom if you wanted a full sandwich.
BTW, apparently it takes much longer for me to cook dinner than I thought, especially when I’m trying something new. Tonight I was chopping and seasoning and just enjoying myself, and the next thing I knew an hour and a half had passed. Now, granted, I was experimenting so there was no recipe to follow, no guidelines, and I spent some time digging through the refrigerator to see what types of ingredients would go well together. I also spent quite a bit of time playing with the seasonings. So no, I don’t expect it will take you an hour and a half to make this. And the hour and a half included the time for me to pull out my camera, plate the food, and take a whole bunch of pictures. My point is, apparently I have absolutely no concept of time.
For the stacks:
1 medium eggplant
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 lb grass fed lean ground beef
1 T. chili powder (more or less to taste)
1⁄2 tsp cumin
1⁄2 tsp paprika
1 T. coconut aminos
1 T. nutritional yeast
Sea salt & ground black pepper to taste
6-8 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
4 large kale leaves, chopped
Slice tomato and green onions for topping, if desired
For the sauce:
1⁄3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
Juice of 1⁄4 lemon
Few dashes paprika
Few dashes sea salt
1 dash nutmeg
1⁄4 cup coconut milk, more or less to reach pourable consistency
Slice eggplant into 1⁄4 inch rounds (I used a mandolin to ensure uniformity). Lightly salt both sides of each round and set in a colander. Let stand for at least ten minutes.
Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and starting to caramelize. Add ground beef, stirring to break up any large chunks. Add chili powder, cumin and paprika, stirring well to combine. When meat is cooked through, add aminos and nutritional yeast. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Add mushrooms and kale, stirring constantly, until kale has wilted and mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or two, depending on the size if your eggplant). Line eggplant in a single layer, not touching. Broil for 3 minutes, flip, and broil 3 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Top each eggplant slice with meat mixture. I used a heaping 1⁄8 cup measuring cup, but slightly less for the smaller pieces. Bake for ten minutes or until heated through. While stacks are baking, put cashews in a blender and pulse until you get a chunky powder.
Add remaining ingredients, starting with less coconut milk (adding more as needed), and blend on high speed, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary. The sauce should be thick but pourable.