Another crock pot recipe for those who care. I’ve actually made versions of this recipe before; but I wanted to see if I could make it in a crock pot. Set it and forget it. It’s typically a high set up, high maintenance, customized presentation piece — a variation of this recipe is what I used as my cook to impress dating recipe.
It worked on my wife so I feel like it was fairly well perfected. Now I needed to figure out how to cook this thing as a husband and a Dad. The game changed. It’s about volume, speed, efficiency, all without compromising taste.
Umm … nailed it?
I don’t usually start with a summary but for this dish it feels like the right move. The dish stacks up as follows. Layers of eggplant, tofu ricotta, and portobello caps separated by a homemade tomato basil sauce.
I just made this up as I went along but the dish should play out well as recreated below. For example, I thought about the pesto at the very last minute, so I whipped it up based on what I had in the house (spinach, walnuts.) I make this dish to taste … so taste everything before you assemble!
Total Ingredient List
- Eggplant (1 Large)
- Mushroom Caps (5)
- Silken Tofu (1 Brick)
- Parmesan Cheese (Shaved)
- Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes (32 ounces)
- Fresh Basil (1 Bunch)
- Spinach (1 Bag)
- Pine Nuts or Walnuts (1 Bag)
- Olive Oil
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Garlic (4 cloves, 4 Tbsps Minced)
- Other Cheeses (optional for a layer and for topping)
Preparation 1: Vegetables
- Eggplant – Slice them however you want. Lengthwise. In circles. The goal is to leave the skin on, leave them at equal thickness, and enable yourself to cover the entire base of your crockpot. I went with circles for a majority and then cut some of the remaining circles into half circles to fill in the gaps. Salt them generously on either side and leave them on a paper towel for 25 minutes. You’re sweating out the water. Walk away. Walk. Away.
- Mushrooms – Clean the heck out of the caps. Lightly season them with salt and pepper. Lightly brush them with olive oil. Bake them on 350 for 15 minutes. Expect them to sweat out quite a bit of water so get a plan with some lip. After these have cooked, save the excreted mushroom water in a separate bowl and then put the Mushrooms on a plate, covered.
- Eggplant Revisited – Brush off the salt and sop up the water (paper towels are fine) then prepare them as you would the Mushrooms, but be a little more generous with the olive oil. Bake them at 350 for 25 minutes.
- Move on to the tofu and the sauce.
Preparation 2: Blender
- Tomato Sauce – Easy peasy. Coat a saucepan with olive oil. Pour in the tomatoes and the mushroom water. Season to taste (salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, handful of basil leaves diced, 1 clove of garlic.) Let it simmer a bit. Toss all of this into a blender and get it to the consistency you’re looking for. Taste it and make sure you like it. Consider lemon juice, sugar, or more tomato depending on how the flavor is working for you. Rinse out the blender. You’re going to need it.
- Tofu Ricotta – Easy peasy, but you’ll need a spatula and some blender shaking experience. Crush the silken tofu to as fine a paste as you can with a fork. Toss in a half a bunch of basil. 4 Tbsps of Olive Oil. 1 clove of garlic, Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper to taste. Blend it. It should come out the consistency somewhere between a small curded ricotta and a smooth cream sauce. If you’re having difficulty blending it, feel free to add a little bit of water to get the blades whirring. Taste it and make sure you’re comfortable with the taste. This is a texture layer so you should like it but keep the flavor in context of the full dish.
- Pesto – Take the spinach, the remaining basil and garlic, equal parts olive oil, walnuts/pine nuts (1 cup), and parmesan, and season to taste (salt and pepper.) Blend. Taste and adjust until you like it. Set aside.
Preparation 3: Assembly
You’ve not got all the components together; it’s time to assemble.
- Use 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil to coat the bottom and sides of the crock pot. A spray is fine as a base but use the OO for texture and flavor.
- Add a layer of sauce. Then lay down the eggplant on top of the sauce. Cut pieces to ensure you have full coverage.
- Spoon and spread pesto over eggplant. Make sure the eggplant is well covered.
- Add another layer of sauce on top of the pesto. Keep it thin but make use of it. Consider addint a layer of parmesan here (or any cheese if you’re interested; it’s not necessary.)
- Add the mushroom caps. Distribute them the same way you distributed the eggplant. Try and cover the full pot; get creative with how you cut the mushrooms to get there.
- Add a final layer of sauce. Top the sauce with parmesan cheese.
- Cover. Cook on high for 3 hours. Every hour or so remove the lid and put a knife into the center to see how everything is cooking together. If the sauce is getting too thick, add a little water around the sides of the pot (1/4 cup, no more.)
- After cooking, remove the pot from the cooking unit and let set for 20 minutes. Top with basil leaves ribboned if you’d like. But otherwise, you’re ready to eat.
When you’re done, this is heavenly. You can eat it on its own, serve it over pasta, or put it in a sandwich. You’ll enjoy it.