Today's MoFo Prompt: "Re-create a restaurant meal"
Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats grew up on Long Island, the land of Italian-American cuisine at its finest. His family was Croatian, but he has beloved memories of spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, and - most especially - eggplant parmesan. Out here in Santa Cruz, a hippee child of the 70s, I grew up eating quesadillas, natural peanut butter, and vegetables. We definitely had treats and special outings, and we certainly ate our share of pasta, but I was never really very exposed to these foods that Mr. VE&T loves so much.
A few times a year, we end up over in Palo Alto, which is about an hour from our house. There are many fine dining establishments in Palo Alto, including many that offer great vegan options. At least, so I've heard. I may never know, because every time we go to Palo Alto, we end up eating at Buca di Beppo.
Mr. VE&T always orders the Eggplant Parm. In fact, he usually orders a huge serving, so that he can have lots to take home and eat later. I usually order the side dish of super garlicky broccoli. Sometimes I also order the side dish of super garlicky green beans. This makes me perfectly content. The veggies are doused in olive oil and salt and more garlic than is generally socially acceptable (ie: perfect for me). On occasion I have also ordered the pasta with plain red sauce, which is basic but good. Just make sure they don't add any cheese or butter, and these items are all vegan.
Buca di Beppo doesn't have a ton of vegan options, but it's serviceable, and it's all in the name of letting my pal Mr VE&T order something he enjoys so much. Plus, I'll admit to loving the music and the over-the-top Italo-phile decor inside. Still, that said... I've been curious about that Eggplant Parm. Up until now, I had never actually had it, but I thought it sounded pretty good. So, for today's MoFo challenge, I set about to veganize and recreate our Buca di Beppo meals.
my first-born eggplant parm
missing from this picture is "The Abundance Diet," whose Moxerella recipe I used
Since I'd never had eggplant parm before, and I wasn't really sure what I was aiming for, I looked at a few different books for inspiration: Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen and Nonna's Italian Kitchen, plus the eggplant lasagna recipe from The Abundance Diet. The Eggplant Parm recipes were pretty similar. Both called for 3 pounds of eggplant -woooo hoooo! Eggplant is Mr VE&T's favorite veggie ever, so I already knew we were on the right track. I already knew I wanted to use the Moxerella recipe from The Abundance Diet, because I love that stuff.
Both recipes also called for roasting the eggplant slices, rather than frying them, which I was grateful for. I am not a frying fan. The layers went like this: tomato sauce (homemade, of course!), eggplant slices, toasted bread crumbs, layer of Moxerella, layer of parm (I used half Parma, and half Go Veggie!), repeat. Then, pop that giant casserole dish of late summer glory into the oven and wait for 25 minutes.
Just like Buca di Beppo, but vegan and low-cal and cruelty-free and local and organic and inexpensive
Boy Howdy, this was a HIT! I can see why people are so crazy about Eggplant Parm! This biz was sooo good: it was rich and creamy and bursting with flavor. One of my besties dropped by my house soon after I had taken this out of the oven. She couldn't stay for dinner, so I sent her home with a piece. She ate the whole thing in the car before she even got home! ha ha.
As you can see, I also made some of the super garlicky broccoli to go with it. I added a little more salt and olive oil than I usually do at home, but still nowhere near as much as they add at the restaurant. Still, it was super delicious and just that little bit more special than my usual unadulterated steamed broccoli. I love those crunchy golden little bits of minced garlic SO MUCH. And the broccoli goes well with the eggplant parm - it's a bit crisp still, fresh and green, and is a nice balance to the deep richness of the EggplantP.
And what did Mr. VE&T think? As you can see, he loved it too! Ha ha. He is always saying the craziest things. This dish took some work, but it was so delicious and so special that I will definitely look forward to making it again. After watching him eat non-vegan Eggplant Parm for all these years, it was really fun to share this meal together and finally learn what all the fuss is about.