Years ago I shared with our readers the story of how I went from carnivorous to vegan some time during my early 20s. Many a sun has set and risen from that time, and my dietary preferences have changed too. I have gone from carnivorous to vegan, from there I lapsed into vegetarianism, and today I call myself omnivorous with strong vegetarian preferences, or as Aunt Ilana defines me: pesco-ovo-lacto vegetarian (with the occasional serrano thrown in).
Most people just call me “fricking finicky”.
Many a time I have felt decidedly neglected at the Christmas or New Year’s Eve table. I don’t blame my hosts, the fact is that vegetarian or vegan dishes often lack the panache that a good-looking roast does. So I was just tired of being thrown a metaphorical bone and decided to create my own Christmas centerpiece dish with vegan ingredients. One that would not feel less next to a turkey or pork roast. After all we also “eat” with our eyes.
In the post I linked above I refer to my mom’s joke about slaughtering an eggplant when I went home for Christmas, based on the story of the prodigal son and and the sacrifice of animals to celebrate his return. This time I decided to run with this idea. This dish has been going around my head for months (I am sure Aunt Ilana remembers my mentioning it, several times in fact). How about taking something humble, something simple and dressing it up?
Since my mom is visiting us I decided to treat her to my version of Christmas eggplants. The verdict went like this: my mom was impressed and asked for the recipe, my daughter liked it, mostly the crust, my husband said it was very tasty and would go very well next to a steak (he was not joking) and I loved it.
My inspiration for this dish (besides my mom’s jokes) is a recipe that would seem very disconnected from me: Beef Wellington. Of course the only thing these two dishes have in common is the “Christmassy looking dish baked in a pastry crust”.
If you’re having vegan or vegetarian guests over for New Year’s dinner I encourage you to serve this, you will surprise and impress them, instead of expecting them to be happy eating just side dishes or whatever it is left that you forgot to add meat to.
No, I’m not bitter. Not at all.
- 1 very large eggplant or 2 large ones
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- 1 small onion, cut into strips
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ¼ cup of pitted olives, sliced
- ¼ cup of capers (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 cup of chickpeas, boiled very soft
- 1 cup of whole-grain bread cut into crumbs
- ½ teaspoon of pepper (or more, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or more, to taste)
- 1 cup of flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ cup of soy milk
- ¼ cup of oil
- 1 tablespoon of soy milk
- ½ teaspoon of syrup
- 1 teaspoon of oil
- Cut the eggplant into halves
- Separate the peel from the flesh. Scoop out the flesh leaving as little as possible. Cut the flesh into small cubes.
- Heat the oil in a pot over very low heat Add the onions and cook and stir until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook and stir for a minute. Add the olives and capers, followed by the oregano and mix. Cook for a minute
- Add the eggplant flesh (reserve the peels). Mix well.
- Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Pour in the tomato sauce, mix well. Cover for another minute.
- Turn off the heat Add the chickpeas followed by the breadcrumbs. Mix well. Season with 1 teaspoon of pepper and salt to taste.
- Let the filling cool down to room temperature.
- Fill the two peels with the filling and join together one on top of the other, being careful not to spill the filling.
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. Add the soy milk and oil. Mix well.
- Lightly knead the dough until it is soft (about 1 minute).
- Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Mix the oil, soy milk and syrup.
- Pre-heat oven to 250°F [120 °C].
- Roll out the dough to about ⅛" thick (3 mm).
- Place the eggplant on top of the rolled-out dough (careful not to disturb the filling).
- Pull up the dough until it meets at the top. Smooth it out and use a finger wet in the glaze to seal it, cutting the excess dough as you go along.
- Poke some small holes on the crust on the side with the seam and turn over (the seam will be at the bottom).
- Roll out the remaining dough and using a cookie cutter cut out the decoration. Stick to the eggplant with a finger wet in the glaze. Place on a roasting tray with rack.
- Brush the glaze over the eggplant, careful not to overdo it.
- Bake for about 10 minutes.
- Re-apply glaze (be very careful with hot surfaces!).
- Bake until the crust is light golden.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool for 2 minutes before serving.
If you do not find these giant eggplants substitute for two regular large ones. If you are feeding more than 4 people, or your guests have large appetites, make the appropriate adjustment in the quantities to make more servings.
If you wish to make some of the preparations beforehand do so until step 16, wrap the eggplant in foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. You can also prepare the dough and leave it in the fridge wrapped in plastic film. From there on it should take about 30 minutes for the dish to be ready to serve.