Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mexican Eggplant Lasagna

A few weeks back, I was just craving lasagna. Ooey, gooey, cheesy, hearty, classic comfort food. However, I have yet to find gluten free lasagna noodles. I know they're out there; I've seen them online. But unfortunately, I cannot access them locally at my co-op. Pondering an alternative, I wondered how eggplant would do standing in for the noodles... I decided to give it a try. So glad I did! They worked beautifully.

This lasagna dish isn't about classic Italian flavors though. I thought it would be fun to see how a one-pot, cheesy lasagna-ish dish would do in an earthly, smokey, cumin-scented bake. Superb, as a matter of fact!  Completely vegetarian, thanks to the black beans filling in for the traditional ground beef, makes this dish not only oh-so satisfying on the belly, but also on the wallet (a 1/2 cup of dried beans goes for mere chump change, while grass-fed beef can cost you $5-$6/lb.).

And because this dish is smoothed in cheese, it's a verifiable kid-friendly dish in our house. (Anything with cheese- I mean, everything with cheese- is the way my kids would have it if I let them!)

Mexican Eggplant Lasagna

2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 cup cooked black beans
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions or 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (or both)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets). Drizzle olive oil over eggplant and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until soft (you don't want them crispy). Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan with remaining olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-low heat. When hot, add garlic and onion and saute until translucent (about 5-6 minutes). Add salsa, tomatoes, black beans, cumin, and oregano and stir. Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cottage and shredded cheeses and stir to combine. Set aside.

To assemble, start by laying about 4 eggplant slices on the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking dish. Add 1/3 of the tomato/black bean mixture, then add 1/3 of the cheeses. Repeat this layering process two more times, until all ingredients are used. Top with scallions or cilantro.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, take off foil, and let rest approximately 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-9.

(those little hands just can't resist anything with cheese!)

This recipe is a part of the Gluten Free Homemaker's carnival event: Gluten Free Wednesdays...

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