Apple Crisp-Stuffed Apples

Apple Crisp Stuffed ApplesDo you ever order apple crisp in restaurants? I always think homemade apple crisp tastes better, but one thing I do love about restaurant versions is the presentation. It usually comes to the table perfectly portioned in its own ramekin, with a crown of crunchy, crumbly topping and a dribble of apple filling running down the side. When I bake my tried-and-true apple crisp it’s unfailingly delicious, but it looks a little homely. I use my battered, trusty old 8×8-inch baking dish, and after the first serving is scooped the rest of the crisp collapses and the filling oozes out into the pan.

Not anymore. Here is a recipe for apple crisp so stunning, it’s practically worthy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (Well, maybe not quite, but a girl can dream!) In researching this recipe, I borrowed one important tactic from the great site Sally’s Baking Addiction, which was incorporating a little cornstarch. It gives the filling a wonderful gooiness, and helps hold everything together once the apples have been sliced open.

Added bonus? These are pretty healthy! I made them with whole wheat flour, oats, raisins, and only a small amount of fat. I like to serve them topped with a giant scoop of coconut sorbet.

I used two tart Granny Smith apples for the filling, and four of the prettiest apples I could find for the “cups,” which were the red Jonathan variety. You can use whatever apples you prefer.

This is a vegan variation of a recipe I developed for

Apple Crisp-Stuffed Apples
Makes 4 very generous servings

For the apples and filling:
6 apples
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons apple juice or water
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan shortening, diced, or coconut oil (unmelted)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and dice 2 of the apples. Combine them in a saucepan with the brown sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and apple juice or water. Add to the pan with the apples and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the apples have softened but still hold their shape and the liquid is thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, slice the tops off the remaining 4 apples and use a melon baller to scoop out the core and enough flesh to make a hollow cup (be careful not to puncture the sides or bottom).

To make the topping, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the Earth Balance or coconut oil and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together.

To assemble the apples, arrange the apple cups in an 8-x8-inch baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the apple cups. Sprinkle with the topping (press down a little to make it stick). Carefully pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the dish. Transfer to the oven and bake until the topping is crisp and beginning to turn golden-brown and the apple cups give slightly to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup - Version 2As I write this, I am staring down a giant fresh pumpkin that my mother-in-law gave us. Halloween is in two days, and I have no idea how to carve it. Somehow I’ve managed to live through 33 Halloweens without ever making a jack-o-lantern for myself. I just googled it, and the top result was a Martha Stewart article that began: The first step is hollowing out the pumpkin. Use a keyhole saw to cut the hole. What on earth is a keyhole saw?!? I clicked away because I was overwhelmed.

This is the first year we are living in an actual house (as opposed to an apartment) for Halloween. We have a stoop and a front yard and neighbors with school-age children. I am picking up Owen early from daycare on Friday so we can go trick-or-treating, and we have a big bowl of M&Ms and Junior Mints ready to give out. The pressure is on. Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to make those triangle eyes and that gap-toothed grin, not to mention how to get a candle to stand up and stay lit inside.

But first let’s relax with a bowl of creamy, comforting pumpkin soup–no keyhole saw required. White beans are the secret ingredient. They impart a thick, velvety texture, but otherwise you wouldn’t know they were there. This is a savory soup with plenty of onions and garlic, but there are subtle hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple, too. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, just use big pinches of cinnamon and ginger and little pinches of nutmeg and allspice. I like to serve this soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and unsweetened coconut cream. Just refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight. Carefully open the can (don’t tip it over or shake it), scoop out the “cream” on top, and swirl it into your bowl.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Makes 8 cups, about 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 (15-ounce) can white beans
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the pumpkin, white beans, vegetable stock, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, and maple syrup. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree the soup using an immersion blender (alternatively, you can puree the soup in batches in a regular blender).

Brussels Sprout Salad with Rice Krispies

Brussels Sprout Salad with Rice KrispiesHow often do you get out for date night? Alex and I are fortunate to have grandparents nearby, but even so we are lucky if we go out once a month. Since we moved to Westchester last year, our favorite restaurant has been The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry. It’s at least as good as the artisanal pizza places we loved so much in Brooklyn, and the vibe makes us feel like we are back on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. (Toddler? What toddler?)

I’m currently obsessed with their Brussels sprout salad with Rice Krispies. It’s playful food in the best sense of the word–airy, crunchy, spicy, and sweet. I had to figure out how to recreate it at home.

At The Parlor, they fry the Brussels sprouts for this dish. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t deal with a pot of bubbling oil on the stove when I have a two-year-old wrapped around my knees. Instead, I roasted my sprouts, as well as any stray leaves, which get extra charred and crunchy. This salad is best right after it’s made, when the Brussels sprouts are still hot and crispy from the oven. But you can also roast the Brussels spouts and make the dressing a few hours ahead and let everything hang out at room temperature until dinner. Toss with the Rice Krispies just before serving.

This is a vegan variation of a recipe I originally developed for, a great local parenting website.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Rice Krispies
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as an entrée salad

1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sriracha
1/4 cup Rice Krispies

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Trim the Brussels sprouts and halve them lengthwise through the core. Reserve any of the outer leaves that fall off. Toss the Brussels sprouts and leaves with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange them in a single layer, cut-side down, with the leaves piled in the middle. Roast until the Brussels sprouts are well browned on the bottom and the leaves are crispy, 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool slightly.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup, lime juice, mustard, and sriracha.

Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle with the Rice Krispies just before serving.


Broccoli Apple Soup

Broccoli Apple SoupMuch to my chagrin, Owen will eat exactly three vegetables: corn (only on the cob, thanks), steamed carrots, and broccoli. When he was a baby, I made him all sorts of healthy veggie purees: sweet potato, peas with mint, and zucchini with basil. He loved them! I smugly thought that my diet must have gotten through to him in the womb. He was my little baby foodie. But as he approached toddlerhood, his eating gradually became pickier and pickier. Last week, we actually watched him pick apart a wonton to remove the offensive bits of scallion.

Ugh. When he does stuff like that, I just have to close my eyes and remember that when my brother was his age, he ate nothing but SpaghettiOs and he’s perfectly healthy now and has a very adventurous palate.

One of my mom friends told me that it’s my job to make Owen different foods and his job to try them. So basically, just keep offering new things but don’t make a big deal of it when he won’t eat them. It’s maddening, true, but I keep hoping there is some day on the horizon when he will sit down to dinner (without demanding to watch an episode of Barney!) and devour a plate of Brussels sprouts.

Recently, when I came across a recipe for broccoli apple soup on one of my favorite food sites, I thought “Wow! Broccoli? Apple? I bet Owen will eat that. What’s not to like?” Um, evidently everything. He refused to even try it. Oh well. I think it’s completely delicious, and I’ve been enjoying it all week for lunch. It’s one of those soups that keeps getting better as it sits in the fridge, so feel free to make it a few days in advance.

Broccoli Apple Soup
Makes 4-6 servings
Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch broccoli, separated into florets and stems chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
2 strips lemon peel
Chopped fresh chives, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and apple and cook until the onion is translucent and the apple is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, and thyme and cook until the broccoli begins to darken in color, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable stock, apple cider, and lemon peel. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon peel. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (alternatively, you can puree it in batches in a regular blender). Garnish with chives before serving.


Blondies with Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

Blondies with Pistachios and Dark ChocolateAlex’s birthday is three days before Owen’s. Two years ago, when I was 100 months pregnant and probably already a little bit in labor, I baked him an outrageous cake covered in chocolate ganache and decorated with chocolate- and toffee-covered pistachios. It was a cake to end all cakes. Literally–I haven’t baked him another one since. With Owen’s birthday just 72 hours later, it always seems like too much. For the past two years, Alex has had to wait and “share” Owen’s cake, and instead of grown-up flavors like dark chocolate and nuts, we’ve had banana and M&Ms.

But this year, Alex turned 35 years old. 35! It’s kind of a big deal–definitely worthy of a special dessert. Once again I couldn’t quite bring myself to bake back-to-back cakes, so I decided on blondies loaded with pistachios and dark chocolate chips. They might not have looked quite as impressive, but topped with a scoop of chocolate sorbet and some fresh raspberries, they were every bit as delicious.

These blondies can be a bit sticky, so don’t skip the foil and parchment paper!

 Blondies with Pistachios and Dark Chocolate
Makes 9 large blondies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup coconut oil (solid at room temp) or Earth Balance vegan shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 large ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with foil so it extends up the sides. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Spray the pan with nonstick spray, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil or Earth Balance and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the banana, almond milk, and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips, pistachios, and coconut (if using).

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until the top is golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into bars. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.



Classic Carrot Salad

Classic Carrot SaladWhen I was a single girl, I used to make a delicious carrot salad all the time. It was just grated carrots, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cilantro. A huge bowl of it with some crusty bread and a glass of white wine can make a pretty great dinner. But alas, Alex is a cilantro hater. When I met him, I retired that recipe.

But I miss it! Carrot salad is a wonderful thing. I love having a salad with dinner every night, but the same old mixed greens or baby arugula can get boring. Lettuce-free salads are a great way to change things up while still satisfying a craving for crunchy veggies.

This carrot salad is my take on the classic, creamy version with raisins and apples. I’ve dialed way back on the mayo to keep it light and healthy. I also added fresh parsley (which at least looks like my beloved cilantro) and walnuts for crunch.

Classic Carrot Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 pound carrots
1/3 cup raisins
1 large apple, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Fit a food processor with the grating disc. Peel the carrots and cut them in half crosswise. Put them in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches. Transfer the grated carrots to a large bowl and add the raisins and apple.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, and salt. Pour over the carrots and toss to combine. Stir in the parsley and the walnuts (if using).

Easy Black Bean Tacos

Easy Black Bean TacosFor 30 years, Alex thought he didn’t like Mexican food. Then we went to a wedding in Napa Valley and the morning after there was a fabulous homemade Mexican brunch, complete with guava mimosas and a woman pressing fresh tortillas. Alex was converted. He realized that he actually loved authentic Mexican flavors. What he didn’t love was the goopy sour cream and rivers of melted cheese that all too often cover them up.

But since then, I have to admit that I haven’t cooked much Mexican food at home. When we lived in Brooklyn, there were literally three taquerias within walking distance from our apartment. Why would I slave in the kitchen when a vegan kimchi burrito bowl from Kimchi Grill was a baseball throw away? (True story: we once ordered delivery on a rainy and extremely lazy night, and they laughed at us.

Now that we’re in the suburbs, good Mexican food is much harder to come by. I’ve started to experiment more on my own. These black bean tacos are almost as easy as ordering delivery. You can make the filling a few days in advance and then just reheat it before dinner. I like corn tortillas, but use flour tortillas or hard taco shells if you prefer. Toppings are limited only by your imagination. I like thinly sliced red onion, fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and avocado.

Easy Black Bean Tacos
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
Corn tortillas, sliced red onion, diced tomatoes, avocado, and fresh cilantro, for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili, cumin, and a big pinch of salt and pepper and stir to coat. Add the black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes with their juices, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend very briefly, until some of the beans are pureed but most are intact and the mixture is chunky. (Alternatively, blend 1 cup of the mixture in a blender and then stir it back into the pot.)

Serve with the tortillas, red onion, diced tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro.

Jalapeño Acorn Squash with Cranberry Walnut Sauce

Jalapeño Acorn Squash with Cranberry Walnut SauceThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. (Can you tell? It’s only mid-October and I’m already talking about it.) For us, it’s a big multi-family affair: my mother-in-law roasts a massive turkey (and always frets that “it just won’t be enough.” A few years ago, she actually made a roast beef too, just in case). My mom makes the cranberry sauce, usually a potato dish, and her famous sweet potato pecan bread. I’m in charge of pies.

I love everything about our Thanksgiving except one teeny, tiny thing: I’m definitely a more adventurous eater than anyone else in my family. I’m all for the classics, don’t get me wrong. But I wish we could spice things up a bit and try some new, non-traditional dishes. I could (gasp!) skip the sweet potatoes with marshmallows, the green beans with almonds, the same chocolate pecan pie we had last year, and the year before that.

This year I thought, why not just make all the newfangled Thanksgiving dishes I want to make before Thanksgiving? That way I get to try all the crazy veggies and desserts I want, without denying anyone the plain mashed potatoes with butter they’ve had since childhood (I’m looking at you, Dad).

First on my must-try list was acorn squash roasted with jalapeño and lime, an idea I got from the awesome cookbook Keepers. For their recipe the authors make a compound butter with the jalapeño and lime zest and then let it melt it over the roasted squash. It sounded delicious, but heavy (4 tablespoons of butter for 4 servings!). For my vegan version, I pared it down to just 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 6-8 servings, and I roast everything all together on a baking sheet.

Then, because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and because I have all these leftover cranberries in my fridge, I made a quick cranberry-walnut sauce to go over the top. The results pack a punch, from the sweet, caramelized roasted squash, the subtle heat of the jalapeño, the tart cranberries, and the crunchy walnuts. I liked it so much, I just might try to sneak it onto the Thanksgiving table.

Jalapeño Acorn Squash with Cranberry Walnut Sauce
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

For the squash:
2 medium-large acorn squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
Freshly grated zest of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve both acorn squash lengthwise (through the stem end). Cut each half lengthwise into quarters, so that you have 16 wedges. Transfer to a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, maple syrup, jalapeño, lime zest, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange cut-side down in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes. Flip and continue to roast until squash is tender and golden-brown in spots (a fork inserted in the middle of a piece should meet no resistance), about 15 to 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice and walnuts.

To serve, arrange the squash wedges in a row on a serving platter and spoon the sauce down the middle.

Cranberry Almond Smoothie

Vegan Cranberry Almond SmoothieI have a running joke with a friend that we won’t drink anything with calories if it’s not caffeinated or alcoholic. Juice? Soda? Not worth it. Coffee? Martini? Yes, please. I’ve never been a big smoothie person, and I’m not really into our current collective obsession with jucing. Why would I waste calories drinking something when I could be eating something? Aren’t we all in agreement that eating is so, so much better?

But a few months ago, I bought the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. Flipping through it, something about the Green Monster spoke to me. It was a smoothie made with a banana, some almond milk, a tablespoon of almond butter, chia seeds, and a handful of kale. The whole thing was about 300 calories and Angela wrote that she had one for breakfast a few times a week. I happened to have everything on hand to make it, so I whipped one up the next morning. I honestly couldn’t believe how delicious it was. Plus, it made me feel great and kept me full until lunch. I’ve been totally converted, and since that day I’ve had a smoothie for breakfast almost every day.

Not the same smoothie, though. That would be boring. I’ve been playing around with different combinations, some more successful, some less. So far this cranberry version is one of my favorites. If you don’t have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix) you might need to add a little water to get your smoothie totally–for lack of a better word–smooth. Anytime I have bananas on the verge of overripe I peel them, put them in a sandwich baggie, and toss them in the freezer so I always have them on hand.

Cranberry Almond Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
Adapted from Oh She Glows and The Food Network Magazine

1 medium banana, peeled and frozen
1/3 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon almond butter
Pinch of cinnamon
4 ice cubes
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If your blender is “sticking” drizzle in a little water and blend again.

Spicy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

Vegan eggplant parmesanWhen I was in my awkward early teen years, I used to go to this gym in my town called Body Techniques. This was in the mid-90’s, and it showed. The walls were decorated with pink and teal heartbeat lines, like the kind you’d see on a heart rate monitor, and half the gym was devoted to a windowed aerobics studio where women in leotards did Tae Bo. I never went to the classes; my favorite way to workout was to take an enormous pile of magazines from the communal rack (preferably the ones my mom never let me read, like Cosmo) and climb on the Stairmaster for exactly 45 minutes, while leaning on the handlebars in precisely the way you’re not supposed to.

One day I remember reading an article about “10 things you should never eat” or some such nonsense. Basically, it was a list of foods that you might not think were fattening, but in actuality were really bad for you. I can’t recall all of them, but #1 was fettuccini Alfredo. Breaded, fried, and super-cheesy Eggplant Parmesan also made the cut. I’m definitely not one to see foods as “good” or “bad”–I believe there is room for everything in our diet in moderation–but something about that list stuck with me, and now whenever I see eggplant parm on a menu I skip over it and chose something else.

But the thing is, I really love eggplant. Like, a lot. Even more so when it’s caramelized and golden-brown and baked up with a garlicy, basily, slightly spicy tomato sauce and an avalanche of crunchy breadcrumbs. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at several low-fat versions and been uniformly disappointed. Then several months ago, I decided to give it one more chance, this time using Mark Bittman’s recipe for vegan eggplant unparmesan. What a revelation. He bakes the eggplant slices with a tiny amount of oil, and then layers them with a quick and simple homemade tomato sauce. The whole thing is covered with an almost absurd amount of panko, which absorbs all that sauce as it bakes, so the slices come out thick and substantial. It was perfect. Well, almost.

I couldn’t help tweaking it just a little bit. First I cut the recipe in half. We are a family of three, and a 9-x 13-pan of anything (with the obvious exception of brownies) is a little too much for us to handle. I found that an 8-x 8-inch pan served four generously. Second, I know Mark is a minimalist, but I thought his sauce needed a little maximizing. I swapped the onion for extra garlic, and added dried oregano and a huge pinch of red pepper flakes. A big scoop of tomato paste and a splash of red wine really boosted the umami flavors. Lastly, I added some nutritional yeast to the panko to give it that cheesy flavor.

Finally I have my ideal, healthy eggplant parm! As you might be able to tell from the photo, if you are serving non-vegans, you can easily sprinkle some mozzarella over their portion before adding the panko. I like to eat this on its own, but you could also serve it over pasta (think linguine) for a more substantial dish. Leftovers will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Spicy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Makes 4 Servings
Adapted from Mark Bittman

1 medium to large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup whole wheat vegan panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet and brush both sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the eggplant until softened and starting to brown, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the oregano, pepper flakes, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 400°F. Spread about 1/3 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-x8-inch square baking dish. Top with half the eggplant and half the basil. Add another 1/3 of tomato sauce, then the other half of the eggplant and basil. Top with the remaining sauce.

In a small bowl, stir together the panko and nutritional yeast (if using). Sprinkle evenly over the top and bake until the panko is toasted and the sauce is thick and bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.