A rich, creamy eggplant sauce that just happens to be vegan, served over super-simple, low-carb onion noodles.
Zoodles zoodles everywhere! Can I even express how much I love that vegetable-based noodles (not just gluten-free, but grain-free) have gotten so popular and are so increasingly easy, what with the excellent Paderno as well as a few other spiralizing options? Our own zoodle variations include both pad thai and puttanesca, as well as a pappardelle made with no special equipment other than an ordinary vegetable peeler. I’ve tried and enjoyed them all – but I admit it never occurred to me to experiment with onions, until I came across Michael Richard’s recipe for Onion Bolognese in one of my favorite new cookbooks, “Genius Recipes” from the always topnotch Food52.
This post piggybacks on not one but two geniuses from the aforementioned collection: Michel Richard and Francis Lam. How do the onions not just become caramelized, I wondered? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some caramelized onions, but they don’t seem like they’d stand up, texture-wise, as a pasta variation. Solution: You steam rather than saute them. And Francis Lam’s eggplant sauce is similarly simple: cooking the eggplant down in good oil and a few flavor mates (I decided to add some tahini and lemon, as well as some fresh veggies to finish), until it naturally becomes rich and creamy.
And hey! Look at that: we just so happen to have stumbled upon a recipe that’s not only gluten, grain and dairy-free (and low carb, depending on how hardcore you have to be), but also paleo and vegan. I didn’t even mean to. So the next time you want to make a basically ALL-VEGGIE recipe that packs some serious oomph, give this one a whirl – or try either the onioodles or the eggplant on their own.
- 1 large eggplant
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large yellow onions
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ⅔ cup water
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- about ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Slice the eggplant into ½ inch slabs. Salt each piece and stack them atop each other to help them lose a little excess moisture. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and add garlic (don't let the garlic brown here; turn heat down if necessary). While you let the eggplant sweat and the garlic and oil hang out together, prep the onions - this should take about 15 minutes.
- Peel the onions, trim off the ends, and core the centers like you would an apple. Cut one vertical down the side of each, reaching the center so that when you slice them horizontally, you get a long ribbon rather than a complete ring. Cut the onions on a mandoline or other slicer, if you have one (or bust out your best knife skills), set to ⅛ inch. Cry a bunch. Set the sliced onions aside.
- Pat the eggplant slices dry and cube them up, then add into skillet, tossing in the oil so they're all well and evenly coated. Turn up the heat to medium high. Add thyme and cook for about 5 minutes, until eggplant starts to soften. Add water, a teaspoon of salt, some pepper and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover except for just a crack. Stir occasionally for the next 20 minutes.
- Bring a few inches of water to boil in a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add sliced onions and steam for 6-8 minutes, until tender and translucent. Set aside while you finish up the sauce.
- Once eggplant is totally cooked through and liquid has absorbed and reduced to almost nothing, smash it all up with a spoon or spatula. Add the tahini (I started with a tablespoon; you can add a bit more, but take it easy, we're not making hot baba ghanouj here) and mix in thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning, including a bit more olive oil if you like. (Do recommend.)
- Finally, add the tomatoes, peppers (color of your choice), and parsley.
- You can stir the onion noodles directly into the pan, here, or you can be more refined and plate up the noodles with the sauce spooned over the top, as per the pic; whatever floats your boat.
— posted by Anne