Nisha Melvani, creator of Cooking for Peanuts, knows the secret to helping people who want to eat less meat…
Start with one meal. Start with dinner. Her new book, Practically Vegan, has a bunch of easy vegan recipes to get you there.
Melvani was born and raised in Jamaica to Indian parents and lived in London and Montreal, before settling in New York. Her grandmother was an amazing cook, while her mom “ate because she had to,” and her dad, who loved vegetables, was somewhere in between. That meant dinners growing up were a mash-up of Chef Boyardee ravioli and from-scratch mutton curries. “Having been exposed to these extremes,” writes Melvani, “resulted in giving me a balanced perspective about how food can mean such different things to different people.”
Not surprisingly, the book’s recipes — Chickpea Fritters, Cauliflower-Sweet-Potato Curry, Spicy Black Bean Chili — reflect a diverse, global palate dedicated to making vegan cooking convenient, easy, and, most important for her three kids, fun. Exhibit A: Reworking Eggplant Parm by swapping out the cheese for nutritional yeast and presenting the whole thing in “meatball” form.
Eggplant Parmesan “Meatballs”
From Practically Vegan by Nisha Melvani
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium eggplant (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 cup dried bread crumbs
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
16 ounces spaghetti
1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, occasionally mashing it with the side of a spatula orwooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, or until the eggplant starts to become tender. Add the onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more, until the eggplant is cooked through and tender but stillholds its shape.
Add the garlic, basil, oregano, thyme and black pepper and cook for 30 seconds.
Transfer the eggplant mixture to a large bowl. Mix in the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. (Bread crumbs contain different amounts of sodium, so it is important to taste the eggplant mixture before adding the salt.) Taste the mixture and season with the salt. Allow themixture to sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle before forming the meatballs.
Using your hands and about 1½ tablespoons of the eggplant mixture for each, form 15 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip them over and cook for about 10 minutes more, or until golden brown on both sides.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until it is al dente and heat the marinara sauce in a medium saucepanover medium heat.
Allow the meatballs to cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer them to the saucepan with the marinara sauce. Heat gently until warmed through before serving on top of the pasta and garnishing with parsley.
(Photo from Practically Vegan.)