In the past, I found Veggie Lasagna to be disappointing and gross. The pre-fab frozen versions were depressing. My own attempts with noodles and sauce and cheese (yes! Even using REAL cheese!) made an icky, runny, vegetable slop.
But in my head, I still like lasagna and want to eat a healthy, meat-free version.
A lifetime ago someone prepared eggplant “lasagna” for me that had heavenly flavors(but was really more like eggplant steaks covered in sauce and cheese, more than a layered lasagna) and the memory resurfaces to haunt me from time to time.
I have made many dismal attempts at preparing Eggplant in any manner that did not result in a shapeless gray loogie, and finally, FINALLY, my friends, I bring you a Veggie Lasagna, with Eggplant “Noodles” that ACTUALLY TASTES GOOD!!!
*be forewarned: these instructions might seem long, complicated and time consuming, but I assure you it is worth it, and it will get easier the more times you make it. PLUS, you could make two smaller lasagnas and freeze one before baking, for future dining enjoyment.
Ingredients for the “Noodles”
2 large eggplants or 5-6 japanese eggplants
¼ cup salt
8 -10 cups water
Peel the eggplants and cut into thin, (approximately 1/8 inch) slabs. You can achieve this with a very sharp knife, or with a mandolin (I found this to be an excellent opportunity to use the ridged blade. I thought it made the eggplant look more “noodle-y”)
Dissolve salt in the water in a large pot. Submerge the eggplant “noodles” (you COULD do the prep work for Eggplant Noodle Spaghetti at the same time and brine all the noodles at once. Conserve Salt… Conserve Water… Conserve Time…. Everybody wins!)
After the “Noodles” have been submerged at least 30 minutes, remove them from the pot (reserve the liquid).
Spread the noodles on clean, dry towels (multiple layers), cover with additional clean, dry towels, and lay a flat, weighted object over them. This presses the moisture out of the eggplant. I like to change out the damp towels for dry towels after a few hours, leaving the eggplant pressing overnight and continue the lasagna assembly the next day, but I realize not everyone likes to take an entire week to prepare a single meal. SO, press the noodles for at least 2 hrs, exchanging the damp towels for dry towels as often as necessary.
Ingredients for White Filling:
3 cup cauliflower, “Riced”
1 cup parmesan
½ cup feta
1 Tbs packed fresh basil (minced)
1 Tbs fresh marjoram (minced)
Discard the outer leaves and thoroughly wash your cauliflower. Cut Cauliflower head into quarters and remove the stem. “Rice” the cauliflower by shredding it in a food processor, or by using the largest holes on a box grater (be careful with your fingers!). Cauliflower should end up crumbly and sort-of rice-like.
Bring the brine reserved from the noodles to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the cauliflower. Boil very briefly (about 5 minutes), then pour through a fine colander/screen. (you COULD prepare additional cauliflower in this fashion at the same time, and make Tasty Nuggets or cauliflower pizza crust for future enjoyment.)
Once cauliflower is cool enough to be touched, press out as much liquid as possible. Allow cauliflower to cool and dry on a clean, absorbent surface.
Combine Eggs, Parmesan, Feta, minced Basil and cool, moisture free cauliflower until evenly dispersed. Set Aside.
Ingredients for Brown Filling:
4 cup portabellas (chopped)
4 clove garlic (minced)
2Tbs fresh basil (minced)
½ Tbs olive oil
Heat oil in a skillet. Toss all ingredients in the oil, on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will release quite a bit of moisture into the pan. Continue to cook until all liquid has cooked off. Remove from heat and set aside.
2-2.5 cups marinara (my lovely low carb recipe is here)
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Oil (for the pan)