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Baked Eggplant with Italian Style Salsa Fresca and Avocado

I’ve been living on the northern coast of California for the past year. I still feel like I haven’t made many friends around here. But thankfully I do have made a couple of really good ones. Maggi, who I have had the pleasure of really connecting with over these last months is one of them. And lucky for me she also grows delicious eggplants at her parents’ house! The ones you see here came straight from her garden and were oh-so-delicious and creamy!

Eggplant, tomato, and avocado are some of my absolute favorite summer foods, and they all work really well together in this dish! The eggplant is nice and crispy, the avocado is creamy and pesto and tomatoes are so fresh tasting. By the way, if you don’t feel like making pesto at home there’s nothing wrong with just buying some at the store. Anyways, hope you like it!

Ingredients:

For the eggplant:

  • 1 medium sized, Italian Eggplant, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any other unsweetened vegan milk)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried granulated garlic
  • cooking oil spray
  • 1 avocado, sliced, to layer with after baking

For the cashew pesto:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste if needed

For the Italian salsa fresca

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large handful fresh basil
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized shallow bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the oven is preheating, bread the eggplant slices. Dip each slice in milk, then coat in the flour mixture, dip back into the milk, and lastly into the panko breadcrumbs. Make sure to coat each one as thoroughly as possible with each layer.
  4. Spread out the breaded eggplant rounds on a baking sheet and spray with cooking oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping half way through.
  5. While waiting on the eggplant to bake make the pesto in a small blender or food processor. Just put in all the ingredients and pulse until its a nice consistency.
  6. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl. Next make the salsa fresca in the food processor, no need to rinse after making the pesto either, it’ll just add to the flavor. So add the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to the same food processor you just made the pesto in. Pulse just until the garlic is minced. Then add the onion, basil, and half of the heirloom tomato. Lightly pulse until the basil is chopped. Transfer to a small bowl, mix in the rest of the tomato and drizzle with olive oil.
  7. When the eggplant is golden brown, pull out of the oven.  Layer each with an eggplant on the bottom, topped with pesto, sliced avocado, and some salsa fresca.  Then top with another sliced of baked eggplant and more salsa fresca.  Enjoy with a side of pasta or garlic bread!  Yum!

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