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People often ask me if I feel deprived or if I crave the things I ‘can’t’ have on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet. The answer is typically no. If I do, it’s rare, and usually has nothing at all to do with food but has to do with a mood I’m in or the crowd I’m hanging with.
That said, I do occasionally come across a food or dish I used to eat that I miss. One of those is eggplant parmesan. Until a few years ago there weren’t any cheese ‘alternatives’ that were even worth bothering with. Those that weren’t nasty (that’s a technical term) either had casein (dairy protein), or soy in them. Enter Daiya ‘Cheese.’ It’s not cheese by any stretch of the imagination (get it, stretch?) but it’s decent. Quite. And it melts. And it’s great in certain recipes or as a substitute in certain meals. This recipe does contain some Daiya, but it’s really just as good without it as we replace the ricotta with a basil cashew cheese that is absolutely delicious (recipe adapted from my sister’s kitchen.)
GLUTEN-FREE DAIRY-FREE EGGPLANT “PARM”
1. Cashew Ricotta
- 2 cups of raw cashews soaked overnight in fridge
- 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
- medium bunch of fresh basil
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water
2. Red sauce of choice, I like arrabiata
3. 2 large eggplants- roasted (see below.)
4. 1 bag frozen or 1 lb fresh spinach sautéed with a little garlic.
5. Daiya Cheese- mozz flavor
1. Roast Eggplant. There are many opinions about how to properly roast eggplant. I cut off the top and the bottom, slice lengthwise to about an inch thick then lay the eggplant out on baking sheets and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let the eggplant sit and ‘sweat’ for an hour, then rinse, squeeze, wipe off baking sheets and return them to sheet. Next baste with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until soft and slightly browned. I often do this the day before so it’s all ready to roll. If you do it at the same time you’re assembling and cooking the dish, turn the oven down to 350 when you’re done. You could also skip the salting and sweating but the texture is a little creamier and the vegetable a little less bitter when you go through the whole process.
2. Make ‘Ricotta’. Drain cashews and put in Vitamix or food processor. Add all ingredients except water. Pulse until mixed. Add water a little bit at a time to desired texture.
3. Assemble in 7 x 11 pyrex dish, layering in whatever creative way you like. I usually go red sauce, eggplant, ricotta, spinach, a sprinkle of daiya, spinach, repeat, ending with Daiya on top.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30-45 minutes until the entire concoction is bubbly and your kitchen smells divine.
5. Let sit for 10 min then serve the gloopy, gloppy, utterly delectable mess. You’ll probably need a spoon.