Eggplant Casserole

Rate it!

standing casserole
Eggplant lasagna. Yeah, we guess that’s right.

Like you, sometimes we just have to use up a number of things we have sitting in the refrigerator. We try to think of something that’s pretty easy, yet good. This week, we looked around and saw an eggplant, some canned tomatoes (we had a Margherita pizza earlier in the week, which used San Marzano tomatoes), and a few squash. Oh, and, of course, a bit of mozzarella cheese, too. Sounds like enough to make an eggplant casserole.

This recipe comes direct from the Scratchin’ It test kitchens. It’s really a baked version of a ratatouille, but we still call it Eggplant Casserole.

Eggplant is one of those funny vegetables; we like it all right, but it’s not high up there on the excite-o-meter, is it? We guess that’s why restaurants like to coat it in breadcrumbs and give it a good frying. After all, almost anything that’s been fried tastes great. We thought about frying this eggplant, too, but we really wanted something lighter, and, presumably, better for us, but we decided to add some breadcrumbs on top, to give the casserole a hint of that fried goodness.

Eggplant Casserole

Yield: 4-6 servings

Eggplant Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • Several slices of leftover bread
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28 oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbs dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 summer squash, sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces

Abbreviated Instructions

Peel and slice eggplant into very thin slices. Place in cold water for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes, and, in a small bowl, toss with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on prepared baking sheet.

Bake until crisp, 20 minutes, then cool completely. Grind into breadcrumbs in a food processor.

In a medium bowl, crush tomatoes, removing any tough cores. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic, basil, and oregano, and stir to combine. Drain eggplant.

In a large casserole dish, layer eggplant, followed by squash, then tomatoes. Continue layering until all ingredients are used. Top with the mozzarella and breadcrumbs.

Cover tightly and bake for about an hour. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes to crisp top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2015/09/eggplant-casserole/

Ingredient discussion:

All right, we guess you could use store-bought breadcrumbs. We wouldn’t, but that’s because we often have bits of bread left over. We just place it in the freezer until we need breadcrumbs or croutons. Feel free to use any summer squash available; just slice it thin, like the eggplant, so they bake up well.

Procedure in detail:

slicing eggplant
Try to slice the eggplant nice and thin so it’ll cook all the way through as it bakes.

Soak eggplant. Fill a bowl about halfway with cold water. Peel the eggplant — we find a vegetable peeler works okay, but not great — and cut into slices about 1/8-inch thick. Place slices in the water and let soak for about an hour. This will keep the eggplant from getting brown and remove some of the bitterness that eggplant is known for. Often, recipes call for sprinkling with salt for the same reason, but we find the cold water method to be just as effective.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

croutons in a food processor
We always make our own croutons and bread crumbs. It’s too easy not to do so.

Make croutons.  Cut the bread slices into cubes. Anything between a 1/2-inch and an inch in size will be fine. Now, you have two choices. You can toss the bread cubes in a bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper, then transfer them to the baking sheet. Or, you can place the bread cubes on the prepared sheet, drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. We use the amount of bread to determine the method. If we have a lot of bread cubes, we use the bowl method to ensure that all the bread is well-coated; otherwise, it’s the drizzle method. Once oiled and seasoned, bake until crisp, about 20 minutes, then cool completely.

bread crumbs
A few pulses and you’ll have bread crumbs. Easy.

Grind croutons. Place the croutons in a bowl of a food processor and grind away. Or, you can put them in a heavy freezer bag and pound them with a rolling pin. Either method will work to get you a batch of fresh breadcrumbs. Obviously, only grind or crush until you have crumbs, not dust.

Crush tomatoes. Pour the tomatoes into a medium bowl, and, using your (clean) hands, crush them into small pieces. We like to use our hands for this so we can feel and remove the tough cores from our sauce. Also, watch for those bits of peel that sometimes remain, and remove them, too. When you finish, you should have a moderately chunky sauce.

making tomato sauce
The sauce cooks as it bakes, so just crush, mix, and use.

Season. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. The amount of salt will depend on the tomatoes, so, yes, taste them and add salt and pepper accordingly. Once the salt and pepper are just right, add the garlic, basil, and oregano, and stir to combine. Of course, you can taste and adjust a bit more, if you so desire.

Layer the casserole up just like lasagna -- it is a lasagna in a way.
Layer the casserole just like lasagna — it is a lasagna, in a way.

Layer. Drain off the now brownish water from the eggplant slices. In a casserole dish, layer eggplant, squash, and tomatoes. Continue layering until all the ingredients are used, making something like a lasagna. Well, we guess it’s an eggplant lasagna of sorts. Top with the pieces of mozzarella, followed by breadcrumbs.

casserole ready for the oven
The breadcrumbs will give everything a nice crispy coating.

Bake. Cover and bake for about 60 minutes, until bubbling throughout. Remove the cover and bake an additional 15 minutes so the breadcrumbs get nice and crispy.

Stand. Remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

This made enough for two meals for us, so we had some one night for dinner, then finished up the leftovers the next day at lunch. At dinner, we weren’t too impressed. The casserole tasted pretty good, but it was a bit strong, garlic wise, plus it was a little liquid-y. The next day, just like lasagna, it was a lot better. The flavors had melded together, the eggplant absorbed more of the liquid, and we really liked it. It was like having a lighter version of eggplant Parmesan, without all the oil from frying. We’ll say this is worth three stars.

Worth the trouble?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *