Eggplant, or aubergine, is not always a glamorous food. It’s understandable since it is true most eggplant preparations, although very delicious, can leave the eggplant looking wilted and sad. By the time it makes an appearance on your plate, eggplant is usually mushy, slightly grayish and dripping with oil. It’s a shame as aubergine is such a beauty when it comes to market in its slick natural packaging. I remember as a child admiring the many shiny deep purple aubergine at the market. However, we always left the store eggplant-less because my family didn’t like to eat them.
Thinking about my aubergine-free childhood, I wanted to try creating a fun, easy, and captivating way to enjoy eggplant. The kitchen is a special place to bond with family and friends. Including others when cooking is always more of a joy. This vegan eggplant recipe is easy and fun—just bread, bake, and stack. It’s relatively foolproof. It is great for kitchen helpers such as kids or less culinary-inclined adults to lend a hand. I think the stacks would be adorable if kids made them and they ended up a bit Dr. Seuss style.
I was inspired by classic Caprese salad. Even though my version here doesn’t include fresh mozzarella, you can easily include plant-based cheese as an additional layer in the stacks. Try to use small, flavorful tomatoes, which don’t contain a high amount of water. I used a tomato I found at the market called a strawberry tomato, and it worked out perfectly. Cherry, plum, or small heirloom varieties all are great choices. Oven roasting will help dry the tomatoes out while intensifying their flavor. The vegan eggplant towers can be served either while the crispy eggplant is still warm or after it has cooled. I imagine serving these stacks as a charming starter or salad before a main course. I drizzled the towers with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flake salt. But a simple sauce such as a pesto or a splashing of balsamic vinegar could be wonderful additions.
Crispy Vegan Eggplant Tomato Towers
- 1 large Eggplant
- 2/3 cup All purpose flour
- 2 cups Panko
- 1/2 cup Flax meal
- 1 teaspoon Thyme (dry)
- 1/2 teaspoon Oregano (dry)
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons Nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon Course sea salt
- 6-10 Cherry or plum tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Fresh basil
- 1 Avocado (sliced)
- Olive Oil
1. Wash and slice eggplant 3/8 inch thick. Pat dry.
2. In first bowl, combine flour, oregano, thyme, cayenne, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
3. In a second bowl, combine flax meal and 1 1/4 cup water to make flax egg mixture. Set aside at least 10 minutes before breading.
4. In third bowl add panko, season with 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
5. Preheat oven 375°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
6. One at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, shake off, then flax egg, then panko. Generously press panko onto eggplant discs to help it stick. Place on prepared baking tray.
7. Dredge all eggplant slices and drizzle or spray with olive oil.
8. Gently coat tomatoes on vine with olive oil, place on baking tray, and season with sea salt.
9. Bake eggplant and tomatoes. Gently turn eggplant discs over half way through baking. Remove tomatoes when skin is lightly caramelized and wrinkled. Bake eggplant until breading is crispy and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
10. Stack eggplant, tomatoes, avocado and fresh basil alternating layers. Lightly smash or slice tomatoes for layers. Reserve some whole tomatoes on the vine for topping the towers.
11. Drizzle towers with additional olive oil and season with sea salt.
Also by Robin: Vegan Peach and Pluot Galette
Related: Vegan Ragu Stuffed Eggplant
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Photos: Robin Kurotsuchi