Ratatouille Lasagna

Here’s another recipe for a ratatouille dish that’s scrumptious! This idea comes from Vegan Cocette. I don’t generally make lasagna, too many steps and too much time but this one is fairly easy and not everything has to be made at the same time. Some things can be made ahead of time and then just assembled which takes very little time. First make the ratatouille, then the béchamel sauce, (Italian sauce if used) and lastly cook the noodles, gluten-free of course. If you don’t want the carbs from the brown rice lasagna noodles, I found one made from hearts of palm at Whole Foods (Whole Foods brand) which has very few carbs and calories. Several other noodle types are also available. Italian sausage can be added to either the ratatouille or the béchamel if desired. This makes a very large pan so choose a baking dish that holds at least 3 quarts and is 5-6 inches deep. I don’t need to serve 8 so I made it in smaller dishes and I froze some (uncooked, covered with plastic wrap and foil).

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

On either a paper towel or a cooling rack, place the slices of eggplant and generously salt on both sides. Place a cookie sheet or tray on top of the eggplant and weight it down with several large cans. Let sit at least 15 minutes but 1 hour is better. Rinse off the salt and dry thoroughly and cube. In a good size pan, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium low heat until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Add:

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. While the ratatouille is simmering, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat over medium:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

1/3-1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (enough so it looks like a soupy mashed potato mixture but all the oil is absorbed)

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add:

2 1/2-3 cups non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook over medium low heat until thickened, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and add:

3/4 cup non-dairy mozzarella or parmesan cheese, grated

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes while the cheese melts, whisking occasionally, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom so heat may need to be reduced further.

Lastly, cook the noodles in a large pot (8-10 quarts) of boiling water. When the water comes to a boil add:

1 tablespoon salt

10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (the Whole Foods Heart of Palm can be used without cooking)

Cook the pasta per package instructions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after draining so that the noodles don’t stick together. Then assemble the lasagna by starting with some ratatouille on the bottom of the baking dish which should be at least 5-6 inches in height to accommodate the layers. Second add a single layer of noodles, then a layer of béchamel, layer of noodles, layer of ratatouille, layer of noodles and lastly a layer of béchamel. Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes so that the layers set up before serving. Serves 8.

before baking

“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

I know, another eggplant recipe! I can’t help myself, it’s so good right now. My local grocery has such fresh ones on hand, I just have to buy them. This recipe traditionally should be made with Japanese eggplants but they are hard to find. I used to get them at the farmers’ market when I lived in Massachusetts, haven’t found them here in Minneapolis as yet. So I used the common oval eggplants. Look for ones that are narrower, they’ll have fewer seeds and be a little less bitter. Also make sure when purchasing eggplants, that the stems are still green and the eggplant is firm to the touch. And always buy the ones with the inward flower end rather than ones with an outward end, they will also be less bitter.

Because this recipe was made using 2 oval eggplants rather than the Japanese, the proportions will be different if you happen to find the long, skinny kind. So double the eggplants needed if you strike it lucky and are able to use the Japanese. They also won’t need to be peeled!

First, peel and cut into bite size pieces:

2 oval eggplants, medium sized (about 6 cups of meat altogether before salting)

Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix thoroughly and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer is better. After they have sat, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the salt and then dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel). It’s not possible to remove all the water from eggplant since the meat acts like a sponge with any moisture. When dry, toss with:

1 tablespoon corn starch (or tapioca starch)

Mix thoroughly and then repeat with a second tablespoon of starch.

Heat in a large skillet (or griddle if you have one):

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering add the eggplant and cook on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until browned then turn to brown the other side, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove pieces as they are browned and set aside. When all the pieces are well browned, and crunchy, and the skillet is empty, make the sauce.

In a medium skillet heat over medium:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped white scallions (slice the greens for garnish)

1 teaspoon minced green chilis

Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1/4 cup water

Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two while making a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot)

Add slurry to the skillet, stirring constantly until sauce is thick. Stir in the eggplant chunks. Remove to a serving plate and garnish with the greens from the scallions and some white sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Add some diced chicken, beef, pork, tofu, etc., to make this a complete meal.

Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

Stuffed Eggplant

One of my (and my grandson’s) favorite vegetables is eggplant. I’d stuffed zucchini but never an eggplant but this turned out very luscious, a classic combination of an onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato base with rice. It’s a great side dish or add some protein, like sweet Italian sausage, and make it a main dish.*

Serves 2 (or double to serve 4). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and cut in half:

One medium to large eggplant

Score the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin, leaving about a half inch of meat around the edges. Use a spoon to scoop out the meat to leave a “boat”. Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for roughly 30-40 minutes until the meat is softened and slightly browned.

While the boats are cooking, heat in a large skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (any color you like)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Eggplant meat, chopped

Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the pepper is softened. Add:

8 ounces finely diced tomatoes (half a can)

2 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade

1 tablespoon avocado oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook until heated through before removing from heat.

When the eggplant boats are ready, stuff them with the filling, sprinkle with:

2 tablespoons grated non-dairy parmesan cheese

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes before increasing the oven heat to broil. Broil until the cheese is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve.

*To make it a main dish, reduce the rice to 1 cup and add 1 cup ground Italian sausage.

TIP: This is an Italian stuffed eggplant. For a more Moroccan style, leave out the basil and cheese and instead add:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup roasted pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)

Pinch of date sugar

Easy Ratatouille (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free)

I don’t generally blog recipes that don’t originally contain allergens. But I love vegetables so I thought it was time for me to share more of my basic go-to vegetable dishes like ratatouille. So delicious, one of my grandson’s favorites, and easy to put together. Like Chinese food, the hardest and most time consuming part of this dish is chopping the vegetables.

You’ll need:

1 small yellow squash

1 small zucchini squash

1 medium eggplant (I prefer to use Japanese ones because they don’t have the bitterness but pick one with a green stem and inward bottom where the blossom was; also try to pick one that’s reasonably thin and firm to the touch)

1 cup diced onion (sweet, yellow, white, red, whichever you have on hand)

1 tablespoon to minced garlic

1 16oz can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, squash and eggplant. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes turning several times. Reduce heat to low and cook another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just getting tender. Add the canned tomatoes, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes to heat, stir in the agave nectar. Serve. Serves 4-6.