This is a fun, plant-based and guilt-free take on traditional lasagne. Layers of basil-walnut pesto, cashew “Ricotta cheese” and raw tomato sauce are elegantly stacked up on top of eggplant to form personal size lasagna portions. The cashew cheese and walnut pesto add a decadent element to this dish. The components of this recipe can easily be made ahead of time and can be assembled before serving. The flavour combinations are on point if you’re craving lasagne without dairy. As an added bonus everything is raw in this recipe except for the eggplant, so the majority of the nutrients in this dish are in tact. This dish can be served either as a main course by stacking multiple layers or can be served as an appetizer in a single layer (please see photos for the different options).
You will have to plan ahead in soaking the cashews for the “Ricotta Cheese” but other than that the steps are very simple. Soaking legumes, seeds, nuts and pseudo grains before eating them is a practice of food preparation that has been around for thousands of years. The reasons for soaking the cashews in this recipe are two fold. First, by soaking the cashews they will easily create a cheese consistency when processed in the food processor. The second reason is to aid with digestion by neutralizing enzyme inhibitors and by breaking down phytic acid, which in turn allows our bodies to absorb the beneficial nutrients and enzymes from the food source. Enzyme inhibitors and phytates (phytic acid) naturally occur in plants in order to protect themselves from predators but when consumed they can actually interfere with the absorption of proteins and nutrients and cause digestive discomfort.* Please note that it is important to use filtered water when soaking and to add a little acid to the water in order to break down phytates. I prefer to use lemon juice as it does not impact the flavour of the food I am soaking.
Another step that you will want to plan ahead is for salting the eggplant. This is also referred to as purging and will take 30 minutes. I have found this to be an effective step when preparing eggplant as it pulls out juices that carry bitter flavours, while at the same time, collapsing the air pockets in the eggplant's sponge-like flesh, which prevents it from absorbing too much oil and becoming greasy.**
Cashew “Ricotta Cheese”
2 cups raw cashews
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried garlic
1/2 tsp minced dried onion
Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Rinse cashews and place into a large bowl. Fill bowl with filtered water covering about 3 or 4 inches above the cashews, add lemon juice and cover with a clean dishtowel. Soak for a minimum of 2 hours. You may certainly soak overnight, they will still be edible even if a purple/gray colour appears.
2. Strain and rinse cashews under cold water.
3. Add all ingredients to food processor and process until a smooth consistency, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary. Place in small bowl and store in refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.
Note: This nut cheese is meant to be on the thicker side, like ricotta cheese.
2 cups raw walnuts
3 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small clove garlic
Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Using food processor add garlic first and pulse to chop finely.
2. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Scrape down sides of container as required to ensure all ingredients are combined evenly and smoothly. Place in refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.
Raw Tomato Sauce
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 tsp chopped fresh basil
Dash of garlic powder
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Himalayan Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and place in refrigerator until you are ready to assemble. (Yes, it is really that simple!)
1 & 3/4 lbs eggplant
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 tsp Basil (dry)
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar (unpasteurized)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line 2 cookie sheets with unbleached, chlorine-free parchment paper.
2. Wash and slice eggplant into 1 cm thick round slices (about 1/3 of an inch) ensuring that all slices are roughly the same the same thickness.
3. Place eggplant into colander and generously sprinkle with Himalayan salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes then rinse off under cold water. Then extract as much liquid as possible by pressing the eggplant slices between clean kitchen towels/paper towels.
4. Place eggplant in a large bowl and add sunflower oil and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
5. Arrange in one layer on cookie sheets. Bake 15 minutes and flip. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the eggplant is cooked through.
Allow eggplant to cool completely. Start by layering cashew cheese, then pesto, then add raw tomato sauce on top. If you’re creating appetizers then the one layer is complete. If you want to stack go ahead and repeat, by adding a second eggplant slice and so on.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil compliments this dish well and can be drizzled on plate for serving. In the photos I’ve also garnished with pea sprouts but basil would be lovely as well.
(Use organic ingredients)
Wishing everyone a safe, happy and abundant 2015, much love from #LoveWildLiveFree.
*Crosby, Heather. Yum Universe. Dalas: BenBella, TX. Print.
**Algar, Ayla. "How to Cook Eggplant to Tender, Silky Perfection." FineCooking.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.