Eggplant Gratin

Eggplant layered with tomato sauce and topped with saffron custard makes an elegant and delicious main course. Eggplant gratin
Yield 8-10 servings
Time 1½ hours
  • small bowl
  • knife
  • 2 large cookie sheets
  • small frying pan
  • wooden spoon
  • medium bowl
  • immersion blender or stand mixer with whip attachment
  • large baking dish or 2 pie plates
  • large spoon
  • rubber spatula
  • 1/8 t saffron*
  • 3 T hot water
  • 2 pounds eggplant
  • ⅓ c olive oil, divided
  • salt
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ t dried herbs
  • 2½ pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped  or  3 c plain tomato sauce
  • pepper
  • 1-2 t sugar (to taste)
  • 6 T aquafaba, at room temperature
  • 14-oz package silken tofu, drained
  • ⅓ c cashew parmesan, grated
  • a dozen large basil leaves
  • 3 oz semi-hard vegan cheese (gruyère, mozz, monterey jack…), grated or sliced

Crumble saffron into a small bowl of hot water and set aside.*

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices. Set aside 2 T oil; use the rest to lightly oil each slice of eggplant and place in a single layer on the cookie sheets. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 15 minutes. Flip each slice and roast another 15 minutes, until tender and golden.

Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil, add onion, garlic, and herbs, and sauté over low heat for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, increase heat, and cook about 15 minutes, until thickened. Taste. If it’s very tart, stir in some sugar.

Meanwhile, make the savory custard: whip aquafaba until foamy, then blend in tofu, saffron water, salt, and pepper. Stir in the parmesan.

Lower oven to 350.

Spread about a cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, then cover with an overlapping layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and half of the basil, torn into pieces. Top with cheese, then another layer of eggplant and basil, then the rest of the tomato sauce.

Dollop the custard on top and carefully spread so that the tomato sauce is completely covered.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden and slightly puffy. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully cut and serve.


* If you don’t want to use saffron for whatever reason, I’ve found that a pinch each of cardamom, cumin, and turmeric makes a nice substitute for both flavor and color.

Adapted and veganized from the dairy-heavy recipe in The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary vegetarian cuisine from the celebrated restaurant, by Deborah Madison with Edward Espe Brown.

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Vegan eggplant gratin