We have had a lot of changes in our house in the past week. New food problems have prompted another major diet change. When the news was handed down late last week I took a deep breath & headed to the grocery store; 3 grocery stores to be exact. We’re no strangers to avoiding some of the top 8 allergens but avoiding ALL of them (wheat, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, milk/dairy, fish, & shellfish)…in addition to all of his other allergies…as part of an elimination diet was a whole other story. I’ll be totally honest with you all, tears of frustration were shed in the dairy aisle of Whole Foods when I realized NONE of the dairy substitutes were safe for Buddy because of pea protein…another one of his allergies. Here we are on day 6 of the 6 week diet & I’m happy to report…so far, so good.
I have literally had to reteach myself how to cook & my brain has been in overdrive all week mulling over recipes trying to figure out how to make them work on this extremely limited diet. I’ve been consumed with thoughts about how to keep my son’s diet well-rounded so he is getting all the vitamins, nutrients, & variety that his body needs to maintain the rapid growth rate of a two-year-old. At the same time…I’m pregnant. This is not a good time for me to go on such a restrictive diet. So I’m having to be sneaky about foods (which I can’t stand) to get what I know my body needs even though he can’t have it. It’s a tricky situation, but we are definitely making the best of it.
Enter last night’s dinner. Being Ash Wednesday, I needed a meatless meal that also wasn’t fish or shellfish. Pasta came to mind, but then I had an overwhelming craving for eggplant parmesan. I had to figure this one out. How do you get around wheat (breadcrumbs), dairy (cheese), egg (need those breadcrumbs to stick somehow)?? After some brainstorming (ok quite a bit of brainstorming) I was able to combine what I know about making eggplant parmesan with what I know about allergen-free cooking & toss in what I’ve figured out this week about dairy free & gluten free cooking (phew!) and actually made it three different ways. Yes, yes that’s right. I made it three ways. And friends, one of those three was the clear stand out. And that’s the one you see below. Enjoy!!
Top 8 Allergen Free Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 4 (with a little leftover)
1 medium eggplant
King Arthur gluten free flour (sorry I didn’t measure this…I used somewhere between 1/4 & 1/2 cup)
1 batch prepared Choice Batter (1 cup water mixed with 3/4 cup batter mix)
Canola oil for frying
A jar of your favorite allergy friendly sauce (I used Newman’s Own Tomato & Basil flavor)
Freshly shredded pecorino romano (this cheese is made from sheep’s milk)
1 box Hodgson Mill brown rice angel hair (I’ll be honest…this was not my favorite alternative pasta I have tried but it’s what I used tonight & it worked fine.)
Peel eggplant & slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay flat & sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest to sweat out some of the water content of the eggplant. (Skip this step if you want soggy eggplant…ew) I let mine sweat for about 20 minutes but I’m pretty sure most recipes call for more like an hour. What can I say, I was hungry & couldn’t wait…it came out just great! Press out liquid between paper towels & shake/brush off salt.
Prepare a glass baking dish with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
Heat just under an inch of oil in a large pot (I used cast iron) to between 350 & 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer if you have one.) Dredge eggplant in flour then dip in batter to coat both sides. Slide into hot oil, releasing away from you to avoid splatter. Pop 4 or so in the pot at a time…don’t overcrowd or the oil temp will drop too much. Cook about a minute & a half, flip, cook another minute & a half, shake off excess oil & place in prepared glass baking dish.
Top these eggplant slices with a layer of sauce & sprinkle with cheese. Repeat above steps for frying eggplant & continue to layer in baking dish until all eggplant is cooked. Top with sauce & cheese.
Pop baking dish in the oven for 30 minutes. Prepare pasta while eggplant bakes. (Note cooking time for gluten free pastas…these vary significantly from brand to brand. Ours cooked for less than 5 minutes.) Top pasta with a stack of eggplant & enjoy. I ate two huge helpings…I couldn’t help myself. It was that good. No joke.
I hope you will share this recipe with anyone you know of with food allergies. Every member of my family cleaned their plate (even my two-year-old!!) so you know it’s worth the time! I will make this again & again & again. Enjoy!