Many of my fondest childhood memories involve getting my hands dirty with food, or trying things with food that perhaps no adult should even try. There’s also the truth that, as a child, I wanted everything to be edible. My mom repeatedly found me sitting on the sidewalk, trying to eat ants. Around the age of 5, I secretly ate the lipgloss and toothpaste found in my super fancy travel kit that my aunt gifted me. I can still taste how delicious I found it, to this day!
I also attempted food wonders, like trying to collect honeysuckle juice - to sell, of course - often tiring before the jar even carried teaspoonfuls. When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I snuck outside with a russet potato and a sharp knife, having heard through the grapevine that one could make a stamp with a potato. Of course, I slipped, and to this day I have a prominent scar that I proudly wear on the knuckle between my thumb and forefinger.
Around that same time, I convinced my mom to let me take cooking classes at the 4H club, where I first learned how to use silken tofu as a smoothie base. Most kids my age were eating ice cream, yet none of them had their mother pick up tofu for the week’s food experiment. I look back at that now, and wonder if that was hard for my mom, since she was a single mom of two at the time, working her butt off to put food on the table.
Fast forward, and in high school I was still to be found messing around in the kitchen. This truth escaped me until a recent conversation with my step-dad, who shared that in high school I said I wanted to own a restaurant “when I grew up.” (I clearly had no idea what that meant when I said that!) Yet it only makes sense, because for years I held onto recipes that I would randomly find, making them for my family as often as possible.
Even after creating this Crispy Eggplant, I was sweetly reminded that my family had a favorite that they often begged me to prepare. I found the recipe for Oven Fried Chicken in my old Brownie Scout Handbook, and my mom swore that she could never make it quite as good as I did. I must have prepared that chicken 10 times before moving out for college. Of course, at that time I had no concept of vegetarianism or gluten-free eating, so I had to giggle a little at the irony of this eggplant recipe “magically” coming to me, and surprisingly working out great!
I sincerely hope that you enjoy it. It is not only super easy and simple, but can also be prepared in ways for everyone to enjoy. This recipe even convinced me that I could indeed enjoy eggplant, something I never before believed. And now I not only do that, but I have a go-to crispy crunchy “fried” something to replace my old love of Oven Fried Chicken.
So, I’m curious… what was your favorite way to play with food in your youth? Share it with me in the comments below.
To Health, with a Crunch!
Hannah Joy L.
The trick to this recipe is all in how it's served. While the eggplant itself is obviously the key component, that won't matter if you don't like what you serve it with. In other words, go with the option above that makes your mouth water, and roll with it!
1 Medium Eggplant, peeled and cut*
1 Cup Almond Meal*
1/2 Cup GF Flour of your Choice (I tried Trader Joe's brand, and Chickpea flour... both worked great!)
3 Tbsp Flax Seed Meal
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Cup Water
~1/4 Cup Olive Oil, to drizzle
2 Tspn Salt
S & P to season
1-2 Hours Before Preparing: Place eggplant in a colander. Toss with Salt, and set in a larger bowl or sink, to drain. When ready to use, rinse thoroughly under cold water, and squeeze excess water out gently with a tea towel or paper towels. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400.
1. Whisk flax seed meal into water and set aside.
2. Combine almond meal, nutritional yeast and gf flour in another bowl.
3. Lightly grease a baking sheet (or 2) to fit all of the eggplant.
4. Using the two-hand battering method (one hand dips in wet, the other tosses in dry), batter eggplant a few pieces at a time, first in the flax "egg," and then in the flour mixture.
5. Place battered eggplant on baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes* or until crispy and golden. Note: Every 10 minutes, flip eggplant and very lightly drizzle additional oil over it. This will give it that golden crisp.
6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper!
*For meatballs, cut into cubes (below, left). For nuggets or wings, cut into quarters lengthwise, then slice into 1/4" pieces (below, right).
As meatballs: Serve over your favorite noodles, warm, with stewed tomatoes, parsley, and basil.
As nuggets: Dip in ketchup or vegan ranch dressing. The kids will love it!
As buffalo wings: Toss lightly in your favorite hot sauce and dip in vegan ranch.