Of course, Mom had probably never heard about Eggplant Parmesan and other tasty ways to use eggplant. But over time, I have become introduced to variations on Eggplant Parmesan. Once, on a cruise, I ordered it, just because (since I hated eggplant) I might be less likely to stuff my face - something way too easy to do on a cruise! It didn't work! Because it was the best tasting dish, ever! Later on, visiting my sister (with an Italian husband), she made Eggplant Parmesan, and again, I loved it. And I have made it a few times since.
|Eggplant Casserole just out of the oven|
It had been quite some time since the last attempt, and recently I had gotten hooked on The Great British Baking Show (or "Bake-Off"). In season one, I was so hooked that I bought the cookbook, and began slobbering uncontrollably over all the recipes. I felt like one of Pavlov's dogs.
One of the recipes was for an Eggplant Crumble, or some such title, and it just looked so good I wanted to try it. When I got down to the actuality, the amount of herbs they used was just way too conservative for my taste. My eggplant was slightly less than the weight called for. I used a jar of red bell peppers that contained two of them, rather than the one called for, and I used tomato sauce for part of the sauce ingredients, since my husband is not keen on tomato sauces with too much "chunkiness". Altogether, with all the slight variations, it came out so good, I could gladly have eaten it for a week straight, and will certainly be doing it again. I don't know, technically, how this relates to a real Italian Eggplant Parmigiana, but it is one amazingly delicious casserole all the same.
I chose to make it with the eggplant in a single layer, in a larger pan, but it can also be made with the eggplant stacked in piles of two, in a 13 x 9-inch casserole.
Eggplant CasseroleServes 6 to 8
1 (1½ pound) eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 - 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
¼ cup freshly minced parsley
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
Salt, as needed
8 to 10 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or torn
3.5 ounces fresh artisanal-type bread
⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish (about 14 x 20-inches) or line with foil (or use a 13 x 9-inch casserole, if stacking the eggplant). Set aside.
EGGPLANT PREP: Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, or line it with foil. Slice the eggplant across, into ½-inch thick slices. Set the slices, in one layer, on the rimmed baking sheet.
Combine the first 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the remaining ingredients from the "eggplant prep" section. Brush this mixture over the eggplant slices (eggplant is a very "thirsty" vegetable, so you may have to add more olive oil to the herbs, as needed). Turn the slices over and brush with the remaining mixture. Bake the eggplant for about 30 to 40 minutes, until soft, but not mushy. Remove from oven. Leave oven on.
|herbs - eggplant to bake - making sauce - making crumb topping|
MAKE CRUMB TOPPING: Place the bread in a food processor and process to rough crumbs. Pour out into a bowl and add in the Parmesan cheese and pine nuts, then drizzle the olive oil over and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
|sauce in bottom of casserole - mozzarella over eggplant - sauce over all - topping in place|
ASSEMBLE: Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce into the bottom of the prepared casserole. With a spatula, lift the eggplant slices onto the sauce in single layer. Place the mozzarella over the eggplant slices. Spoon the remaining sauce over top, and layer the crumb topping over all.
If using a smaller casserole, making two layers: Spoon a small amount of sauce in bottom of casserole. Set half the eggplant slices atop the sauce. Layer on half the mozzarella, then half the remaining sauce. Repeat with a layer of eggplant, mozzarella and remainder of sauce. Top with the crumb topping.
Bake the casserole for 30 to 40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and the topping is golden.
Serve as a main dish, with a salad, or as a side dish.
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.