The name implies that this dish is a carb-heavy, I-need-a-nap-in-my-sweatpants kind of dish. Wrong. It is a vegetable-showcasing, innovative use of your day-old sourdough bread that is (bonus!) vegan. Which is great for highlighting the spinach and tomatoes that will soon be coming of age in the Northeast. I love (almost) summer!
5 tbsp. olive oil + 1/4 c. for drizzling
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes with basil (i.e. Muir Glen Organic), blended
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. Italian Herb mix
2 eggplants, sliced to 1/2-in. thick
2 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
12 slices of day-old rustic sourdough bread
Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 large tomatoes, sliced very thin
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large pot, heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil, then toss in about one-fourth of the garlic cloves. Cook for 2-3 min. in the hot oil, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, and Italian Herb Mix and allow to simmer for 20-30 min.
Place the eggplant slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 c. of olive oil, salt and pepper, then slide pan into preheated oven for 30-40 min., or until eggplant is tender and slightly golden brown around the edges.
While your eggplant is roasting, spray each slice of sourdough bread on both sides with nonstick olive oil spray. Cook in a heated grill pan until toasty and golden brown on both sides.
In a large saucepan or wok, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat, sweat the garlic in the hot oil for 1-2 min., then add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.
To assemble: Spread 1/2 c. of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large casserole pan. Layer with bread until the dish is completely covered. Add half of the tomato sauce mixture on top. Layer all of the eggplant and spinach on top of the sauce. Add a second layer of bread over the spinach layer. Top with remaining sauce, making sure that you’ve covered the bread entirely with the sauce.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Place sliced tomatoes across the top of the breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper generously.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 min. Allow to sit for 10 min., then drizzle balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, sprinkle fresh basil, then slice, serve, and enjoy with a crisp salad and sparkling lemon water.