Vegan Eggplant 'Steaks'
with bay leaves, tomatoes and five spice honey glaze
I’ll wager you’ve never had eggplant spiced just this way. If you don’t consider yourself a fan of eggplant, or you need a new idea for how prepare eggplant, I urge you to try this. It’s SO good, with a flavor combination that will make you say, ‘wow’.
It’s also a wonderful way to use up those bay leaves. I know I usually have the same ones in my cupboard for years and years. It’s good to start fresh sometimes. Here in Argentina they sell laurel branches at the market which you can take home and hang out to finish drying.
If you don’t have five spice, I would encourage you to pick some up. You could use just cinnamon, but the five spice is definitely worth it for a more interesting and nuanced flavor. It's also a great way to mix things up in other recipes- including baked goods- in place of the well worn cinnamon and nutmeg combo. (Try it in homemade granola!)
Typical five spice blends include anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel and some variety of pepper. Some mixes include ginger, nutmeg, or other spices as well. (It might also be called Chinese 5 Spice.) If you can only find seven spice, that would work too.
Thanks to my dear friend ‘J’ who inspired this dish. She told me about eating eggplant cooked with bay leaves, which got me started down this path. And now we have a new favorite recipe! So simple and so delicious, it is a must-share recipe. Try a vegan steak tonight :)
Vegan Eggplant Steaks with Bay Leaves and Spiced Honey Glaze
The two of us usually eat all of this in one sitting. It is too delicious!
6 medium to large eggplants- cut the long way, each eggplant into approximately three thick ‘steaks’
30 +/- bay leaves (depending on size of leaves)
4-5 handfuls whole cherry tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 pinches five spice (estimated scant 1/4 teaspoon total)
2 heaping teaspoons honey
Heat oven to 375F/190C.
Use your largest baking tray here, or possibly two. You want the eggplant to be no more than two layers deep for best browning and even cooking.
Cut off the stalk end of each eggplant, then slice from end to end to get three (or more) 1/2 inch thick long strips per eggplant.
Put enough olive oil in the bottom of the pan to create a thin and even layer.
Place the eggplant strips in the pan with one or two bay leaves per strip between the eggplant flesh and pan. Start with the faces of the eggplant down (the majority of your steaks will be ‘ends’, though some strips will have two sides of flesh exposed).
For the second layer place 1-2 bay leaves between the bottom of the eggplant strips and the first layer.
(Like this—> Pan, olive oil, bay leaves, eggplant, bay leaves, eggplant. The bay leaves should be touching the eggplant flesh and/or pan and otherwise not exposed anywhere.)
Drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle liberally with salt.
Put in the hot oven for 30 minutes.
Remove and shift the strips so that now they are all face up or flipped. (I use kitchen tongs for ease.) It’s okay if now the bay leaves end up on top and exposed.
Add the cherry tomatoes evenly throughout the pan.
Sprinkle the five spice evenly over the everything. I used two three-fingered pinches.
Drizzle the lemon juice over the top, getting a little on each strip of eggplant.
Then drizzle the two heaping teaspoons honey over top.
Sprinkle liberally with salt again.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil.
Put back in the oven 25 minutes.
Flip/rotate the eggplant strips one more time for even cooking and put back in the oven 10 minutes more, until the juices in the pan are all absorbed.
And serve! Remember to remove the bay leaves, either all at once or as you serve.
Try with pasta (gluten free or regular), on rice, on toasts, in a wrap, in a sandwich, on salad, or just straight up as a lovely side to go with other dishes.