I’m back! With summer came weekend trips, weddings, family time, and enjoying the sunshine. I’ve been eating, cooking, and going on adventures but writing seemed to take the back seat. My sincere apologies. Now that we have a rather warm start to fall, I figured it would be a good idea to provide an ode to one of my new favorite dishes I’ve made a few times over the last few weeks. Beautiful vine ripe tomatoes are still available at the farmer’s markets and stores so grab some, an eggplant, and get in the kitchen to make this Orzo Eggplant Bake. This is a summer going into fall dish I found from one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen
Recipe serves four. I suggest taking some leftovers to work for lunch.
- 1 large eggplant
- 1/4 cup EVOO
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stack, diced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces of orzo
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon of oregano (I used dried but fresh is always nice)
- 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
- 4 ounces of fresh, firm mozzarella,
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes
- cook spray
- salt and pepper
- crushed red pepper flakes
1.) Chop your eggplant into a large dice and place into a colander. Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes. This will help all the moisture drain. After 30 minutes, dry the eggplant with a clean kitchen towel.
2.) As you prepare the casserole, preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Heat a large nonstick skillets on medium-high heat with EVOO. Add the eggplant and stir fry for about 8 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Place cooked eggplant on a paper towel lined plate for draining.
3.) In the same pan add the celery, carrots, and red peppers and cook for 3 minutes. When softened, add onion and garlic and continue to cook together for 5 minutes. At this point you can knock the heat down to medium to ensure the vegetables don’t burn too quickly.
3.) Add the orzo and tomato paste and mix together. After 2 minutes of cook time, turn off the heat. Move your pan to an unused burner on the stove and add the last of your ingredients: oregano, mozzarella, Parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, stock, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Make sure you mix well.
4.) Use some cooking spray on a 8×11 casserole dish. Pour your mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes covered with foil, and 25 additional minutes without foil. I cooked without foil for an extra 5 minutes because I liked the crunchy texture of the pasta. Minimize your time without foil if you prefer a smooth texture. Let your pasta rest for 10 minutes before serving to guests and packing your lunch.
What is your favorite meal you make during a long transition between seasons? Have you been able to find ripe tomatoes in your local market now that we’re into October?