There are certain recipes that fall into a category I call “Louisiana Church Potluck Dishes.” These are dishes that I grew up eating regularly because they were staples at the monthly “Family Night Suppers” at the church of my youth. I remember sampling delicacies like baked cushaw, mirliton supreme, and eggplant casserole without knowing what the heck they were, but hey, they tasted pretty good. My mother had her own signature dishes, and I don’t recall her ever making any of these potluck standbys, but there wasn’t really any need–we’d have them again at the next church supper.
I’d completely forgotten about eggplant casserole until a neighbor remarked that it was her favorite eggplant dish. As soon as she mentioned it, I was flooded with memories of a creamy filling covered with cracker crumbs, but I pushed it to the back of my mind because I wasn’t sure what went into it, but whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t vegan.
After consulting my stack of tattered, decidedly non-vegan Louisiana cookbooks, I was ready to take a stab at a vegan eggplant casserole, with one important change: Instead of boiling the eggplant, as most of the recipes instructed, I would roast it as I do for baba ganoush. It takes a little longer my way, but roasting the eggplant gives it a smokier flavor (and besides, boiling an eggplant just seems so wrong). To make this more of a main dish, I added chickpeas, but you could leave them out and serve the casserole as a terrific side dish for your creole black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day. It won’t win any beauty contests, but you’ll be amazed at how luscious, creamy, and richly seasoned it is. (Even E The Eggplant Hater enjoyed it!)
Creamy Creole Eggplant Casserole
2 medium eggplants (about 1.25 pounds each)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups sliced)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned, drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked or regular)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces silken tofu (1/2 package Mori-Nu, Lite preferred)
1 ounce raw cashews (a little less than 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted and made into bread crumbs (or use pre-seasoned breadcrumbs and omit basil and oregano, below)
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
Preheat oven to 425 F. Prick eggplants several times each with a fork and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until they are both completely soft (skin will be blackened in places and collapsed in the middle)–30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop the flesh from the skin, discarding any liquid. (You can do this step a day ahead and refrigerate the eggplant pulp until ready to use.) Set aside until ready to use.
Chop all vegetables (I do each one separately in the food processor). Spray a non-stick pot with olive oil (optional, depending on the non-stickiness of your pan) and place over medium-high heat. Add the onions, green pepper, and celery and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to cook on medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the pan’s bottom, until the mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the reserved eggplant, chickpeas, parsley, thyme, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. Cook, breaking up any large pieces of the eggplant with the edge of a spoon, on medium heat while you prepare the tofu mixture.
Place the tofu, cashews, onion powder, and water in a blender and process at high speed until cashews are blended and mixture is smooth. You may have to stop the machine and scrape down the sides several times and, if you’re using a Vita-Mix, use the pusher to push the mixture into the blades. Scrape the mixture out of the blender and into the pot with the eggplant-chickpea mixture. Stir well, add nutritional yeast, and salt to taste.
Preheat oven to 375F. Oil a shallow baking dish and pour the eggplant mixture into it, smoothing the top. Mix the breadcrumbs with the basil and oregano and sprinkle them over the top of the casserole. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until top is browned and casserole is hot. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Nutrition (per serving): 188 calories, 32 calories from fat, 3.8g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1023.4mg sodium, 727.4mg potassium, 31.8g carbohydrates, 9.8g fiber, 6.4g sugar, 10.4g protein, 3.3 points.
Though MyPoints are calculated using a formula similar to Weight Watchers Points TM, this site has no affiliation with Weight Watchers and does not guarantee the accuracy of this information.