When you begin cohabitating, it doesn’t take long for your little quirks to come to light. Which, is a polite way of saying: the things that annoy the shit out of your roommate.
Mine involve never refilling our Soma water pitcher and saving lightly used tissues on various surfaces for “later.” Charlie’s include leaving his sock drawer perpetually ajar, and buying a new sack of granola, jar of special sauce, or bag of tortilla chips every time he goes shopping, even though there are several half-eaten versions of each already at home.
Unlike my “half-used” tissues, however, which seem to only benefit my allergies and, potentially, the environment, Charlie’s quirky hoarding tendencies do occasionally benefit the greater apartment good. And this week they did so in the form of a sheet pan of Mexican gluten-free eggplant parmesan.
If the tissues are any indication, I can sometimes be an unreasonable stickler for waste. In the kitchen, this leads to other hoarding tendencies. Just this morning I opened my freezer to find months’ worth of veggie scraps and chicken bones that have been patiently collecting icicles and waiting to be turned into stock. The more Charlie buys at the market, the bigger my task of trying to make sure that it all gets used.
When my spirit is full of Martha, I can sometimes get lost in a massive recycling spree at the stove. But on other days, usually at the end of the month, when I look at my apartment through KonMari’s eyes, I just have to break out a trash bag, thank my dirty tissues, tortilla crumbs, and much too moldy cheese, and start over.
Luckily, I was in a Martha mood this week. And the dregs of chip bags from summer parties past got put to use as a breading for this fiesta spin on a gluten-free eggplant parm.
When it comes to using up the bottom of the tortilla bag, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Those crumbs are gluten-free gold, hence why they usually join my veggie scraps in the freezer for future use. I’ve used them as a crunchy topping for crab dip, as a panko-replacement for chicken fingers, and as a thickener for tortilla soup. And they worked equally well in creating a crunchy coating for these slices of eggplant.
I was shocked a few summers ago when this Turkish eggplant dish became one of your all-time favorite FMP recipes. It’s a simple casserole that’s basically a breading and cheese-free eggplant parmesan with a spiced up tomato sauce. If you liked that dish, this one will be right up your alley, especially since it uses just two sheet pans and is baked start-to-finish in the oven.
The steps might seem a little involved, but I promise you that it’s stream-lined in a way that will make for a very easy night of cooking. While the salted eggplant sits, you can prepare the tortilla crumbs and egg wash. As the crusted eggplant bakes, prepare the tomato sauce, which is basically a warm salsa that gets gently cooked down on the stovetop. And as the final assembled dish melts and softens in the oven, you can clean up. Boom.
To make this recipe even easier, or if you’re bookmarking for future use when fresh tomatoes may no longer be in season, feel free to use canned tomatoes or a jarred sauce. If the latter, you can skip the onion and jalapeno, along with the cooking process completely. Just spike it with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and keep the garlic.
If you have a few extra bags of tortilla chips lying around from your Labor Day festivities, or just happen to live with a perpetual over buyer of them, this is a great end of summer recipe to invoke both the Martha and KonMari in your psyche. Now, excuse me while I go refill the water pitcher and throw my tissues in the garbage.
From one healthy hedonist, to another,
Mexican Eggplant Parmesan with Gluten-Free Tortilla Crust
- 2 large eggplants, thinly sliced width-wise into rounds
- Sea salt
- 2 cups finely ground tortilla chip crumbs* (about 1/2 bag)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- Olive oil
- 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
- 2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup finely shredded cheddar or jack cheese
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Arrange the eggplant on a baking sheet and season both sides lightly with salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the tortilla chips. Arrange the crumbs in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1/4 cup water (for vegan option, see note).
Pat the eggplant dry with a dish towel and transfer to a plate or clean work surface.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. One at a time, dip each eggplant round into the egg wash, followed by the tortilla chip crumbs. Pat each side down gently so the crumbs adhere, and shake off the excess. Arranged the breaded eggplant in an even layer on both baking sheets. Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, swapping the pans from top to bottom rack halfway through, until the coating is crispy and the eggplant is fork tender.
While the eggplant bakes, make the sauce: in medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have released their juices and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
When the eggplant is done roasting, assemble the parm stacks: roughly survey the scene and scope out pairs of eggplant rounds that are roughly the same size. Beginning with the slightly larger of the two, add a spoonful of sauce, followed by a modest sprinkle of cheese. Top with the second round and repeat with the sauce and cheese. You should have about 14 stacks total.
Return to the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
Garnish with cilantro leaves (if using) and serve hot.
For a vegan option, omit the cheese and use a flax egg to coat the eggplant slices instead of an egg wash. Simply combine 3 tablespoons flaxmeal with 1/3 cup of water and let sit for 10 minutes. You can speed up this recipe by skipping the step of salting the eggplant. Just note that this helps draw out the bitterness.