Day One: Every Hostess’ Nightmare

Okay, so the embarrassment level wasn’t quite on par with showing up to school naked, but it was pretty darn close.  At 5:30 my husband arrived home from work, we had an incredible dinner (recipe follows) and he wisked back out the door.  6:00-the doorbell rings.  I look out the peephole only to discover a couple standing at my door with a packet of rolls and a pumpkin pie.  The same couple that was supposed to be at my house for dinner two days from now…or so we thought.  In that instant it all made sense.  No wonder she called me this morning to ask about dinner.  I thought she was just being uber-proactive to prepare two days in advance.  Imagine my panic, fear even, as I opened that door knowing that our friends had come to our home hungry, expecting, rightly so, to be fed, and we’d already eaten.

On the outside, I was as cool and calm as I could muster, but on the inside, my mind was racing.  I didn’t want them to know that we weren’t expecting them for two days!  I certainly didn’t want them to feel like they were an inconvenience or that they were unwelcomed, because they weren’t.  I invited them in to sit down, fixed each of them a glass of tea, and quickly tossed the remaining half of eggplant (not so) parmigiana in the oven (mainly so that they wouldn’t see it), and tried desperately to reach my husband, who, as I discovered after my seventh attempt, had left his cell phone at home. 

Half an hour passed, we were having a good time chatting, but my mind was racing still.  What do I do about dinner?  Do I wait for my MIA husband, knowing that his work would likely keep him until 9:00?  I convinced our friends not to wait…by promising that I, too, would eat (again).

By 7:00, my husband and a member of his team happened to drive past the house en route to another work site.  Seeing the extra car in the drive, he borrowed a phone to find out what was going on (apparently, he got the sick feeling and said, “Looks like Annie’s taking one for the team”).  He was home within a few minutes where he, too, ate again. 

The evening wasn’t such a disaster like it initially felt like it would be.  It was a good thing for me that I made what I did.  Typically I have just enough to feed our small family, but I’m starting to rethink that.  Maybe we’re in a unique situation, living on a seminary/college campus, but it seems like a good idea to make a little extra in the event of  an unexpected guest’s arrival.  It’s not that bands of hungry people frequent our door,  but maybe I should cook in such a way so that we can invite a starving college student or new neighbor on a whim.  There’s really no risk, since I love to freeze leftovers for the days when I don’t feel like cooking.  Okay, revised challenge.  Cook delicious vegan food that makes me not miss animal products AND cook to feed others, not just my own eggplant stuffed belly.

I planned.  I prepared, and oh, was I looking forward to this dish- eggplant (not so) parmigiana.  It’s one that I love, vegan diet or not, so, leading up to the big launch, my mouth was salivating in anticipation.  It was very quick, very easy, and my, oh my, was it delicious!  I truly didn’t miss the cheese, which is a HUGE statement coming from me.  If your breadcrumbs don’t stay in place very well, it’s okay, neither did mine.  I found that dipping the cutlets in almond milk helped, but otherwise, I simply spooned the rogue crumbs left in my pan on the naked eggplant slices and it worked out fine.

Annie’s Eggplant (Not So) Parmigiana

2 eggplants

1 cup whole wheat panko crumbs

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup almond milk

1/2 cup olive oil

For the sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cans crushed tomatoes

1 can tomato paste


1 onion

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup chopped parsley



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Wash eggplant and cut off top and bottom.  Slice into 1/4 inch disks.  Sprinkle each cutlet with salt and layer them in a colander.  Let sit in sink for 20-30 minutes (this will remove any bitterness).

Meanwhile, add two tbsp. olive oil to pan and sauté garlic and onion until translucent and fragrant (careful not to burn the garlic!).  Add tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour one can full of water into the pan and stir until well incorporated.  Let thicken slightly, about one minute, and add both cans of crushed tomatoes.  Stir to combine.  Add chopped parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer on medium low heat until flavors are developed and sauce is thick, about 10 minutes.

In separate bowls, add the almond milk, then a mixture of the flour and bread crumbs.  One by one dip the disks into the almond milk, then the bread crumb mixture. Press down in the bread crumbs for better coverage.  Sit aside.  Repeat until all disks are coated (you may need to refill milk or crumb mixture depending on how well coated the disks are getting).  In a large pan, heat the remaining olive oil to medium high (reduce heat slightly if popping occurs).  When the oil is hot, place the first batch of disks in the pan, making sure not to crowd them.  Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until desired brown color is achieved.  Remove to a paper towel to drain and immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat until all disks are cooked.

Place one layer of eggplant disks on the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.  Ladle a layer of sauce on top, making sure each disk is covered (about 1/4 of the sauce).  Repeat process until all eggplant is in the dish (I had leftover sauce, so I froze it for another day).  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.


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