Herbaceous Babe is going to be a little less regular in the days to come as the author gets launched in her professional career. Keep checking back, because there's no telling when a new post will appear!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Eggplant Champignon

Call it what you will: Casserole d'Aubergine, Mushroom Melanzane, or Eggplant Champignon. Each name, like the ingredients, receives inspiration from the countries that comprise the Mediterranean coastline.

Prep time: 35 min, Cook time: 30 min. Servings: 8

2 large eggplant
3 c cashews, soaked and drained
6 petite artichoke hearts
3 cloves garlic
1 T lemon juice
4 c water
1-1/2 c quinoa
8oz mushrooms, chopped
6 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
pepper to taste

Peel and slice the eggplant (round or julienned) and place in a colander to “sweat” for 30 min. In a blender, combine cashews, artichoke hearts, garlic, lemon juice, and water. Pour quinoa into a large casserole dish with 1/2 of the cashew cream, making sure all the quinoa is covered. Add the eggplant, then top with mushrooms and the remaining “cream.” Bake at 375 on the center rack for 20 minutes. Sprinkle rosemary on top and bake for another 10 minutes, until warm through and the quinoa’s germ ring shows.

*If you're allergic to cashews, try using macadamia nuts. Or substitute 3-1/2c coconut milk, omitting 1c of water. (I haven't tried this, but if it works, let me know!) And if you can't get artichoke hearts, don't sweat it; just leave them out.

For me, the dish represents life. In France, I could eat anything. "Restriction" and "intolerance" had no place in my gastronomic vocabulary. I was free; I was alive; and the possibilities were endless. Similarly, eggplant champignon demonstrates a broadening horizon. It is an embrace of a transforming palate (having spent most of my life hating both eggplant and mushroom) and a celebration of what I can eat, not a desperate imitation of something I can't.

It's also about love. Eggplant Champignon is a flavourful compilation of my many passions: France, food, health, creativity - the cashews and quinoa even lend a bit of Hispanic influence!

And since I enjoy researching the finer details of my unique diet, here's a little history and nutrition lesson:

Aubergine: The eggplant originated in India but is very popular in the countries in the Mediterranean basin. Surprisingly, it contains nicotine. But don't worry; you'd have to eat 20 lbs (9 kg) to equal the nicotine in a cigarette. Eggplants also help lower cholesterol and may aid in weight loss.
Mushroom: The white button mushroom (aka. crimini or Paris mushroom) matures into a portabello. It contains vitamin D2, sodium, phosphorus, and potassium. A mushroom-rich diet has also shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Artichoke: This North African relative of the daisy is rich in antioxidants, folate (B9) and magnesium, and may lead to healthier heart, bowels, and gall bladder.
Rosemary: A Mediterranean native, rosemary is an excellent source of iron, calcium, and B6 and has been linked to improved memory.
Quinoa: This pseudo-grain from the Amaranth family is actually South American in origin, but due to my gluten-intolerance, bulgur wasn't an option. Besides, quinoa is an excellent source of protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and dietary fiber - so what's not to love?

*This recipe made its debut at the ARC Vegan Hotdish Cook-Off in Minneapolis, MN on February 9, 2013. It is an Allyson Holdahl (that's me) original recipe.

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