We were thinking of moussaka when we made this, and we almost called it that, but that wouldn’t be correct, as moussaka is generally made with ground beef or lamb. This is simply a rice and eggplant casserole that we happened to mix up for dinner one night, although we did treat the rice similarly to when we made those delicious Savory Whole-Grain Nuggets. Feel free to scratch this up and let us know what you think, or, simply change it based on what you have in the house, and enjoy.
This recipe comes from the idea of using a few eggplant that we had in the house, and the idea of making moussaka. We didn’t do the latter, but we did make up this recipe from scratch in our Scratchin’ It test kitchen. It’s specifically designed so that you can make it in your own kitchen, too.
We recommend using brown rice for two reasons: one, it’s better for you, and, two, the texture works better here. If you avoid brown rice because it’s harder to cook, see our post on Perfect Brown Rice. It’ll fix you right up. Eggs are the other thing we need to mention. Buy good eggs from someone who raises hens on pasture or a backyard chicken farmer. The eggs taste better, and the hens live better lives. Both are important. Oops. Almost forgot: goat cheese. We know that some people don’t like it, so substitute another cheese such as feta or Asiago. (Or try other brands of goat cheese; some are far better than others).
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. We find that 350°F is a pretty good, all around temperature for baking casseroles. But, not to worry if you have something else baking at the same time; you could probably change the temperature by 50°F either way, and have this casserole turn out fine.
Oil pan. You don’t want to be scraping rice off the bottom of the pan, so give the pan a coat of olive oil or neutral cooking oil. We use extra-virgin olive oil, simply because we have it in a bottle with a convenient pour spout.
Fry onions. Place the oil in a large skillet — you’ll end up making all the sauce in here later — over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let fry, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry an additional minute, watching and stirring so the garlic doesn’t brown.
Divide onions. Remove the skillet from the heat and scrape about half the mixture into a large bowl. This will be for the rice mixture. Set aside the skillet with the remaining mixture while you make the rice mixture.
Mix rice base. Add the rice to the onions in the bowl, along with the shiitake mushrooms, and stir everything together. Stir in the oats. Add the eggs and oregano, along with pepper and salt to taste, and stir in until well coated. Finally, stir in enough bread crumbs to make a mixture that will hold its shape when pressed into a ball. Layer the baking pan with the rice mixture.
Make sauce. Place the skillet with the remaining onions back over medium heat. Add the green pepper and tomatoes and cook until the green pepper is tender, about 10 minutes.
Add eggplant. Peel and slice eggplant into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and add these to the sauce, gently folding them in so as not to break them apart. Cover and let simmer until the eggplant is cooked through, another 10 minutes. If needed, add a bit of water to prevent the sauce from sticking. Finally, taste and adjust seasonings, as needed.
Layer. Scoop out the eggplant slices and layer over the rice mixture, followed by the remaining sauce. Break the goat cheese into crumbles and spread over the casserole.
Add water. With the oats in the rice mixture, you’ll need to add some moisture, so drizzle about a cup of water over the casserole.
Bake. Cover the casserole with a layer of parchment — it lets some moisture out — and bake for 45 minutes. To keep the parchment in place, we use a couple of binder clips to attach it to the ends of the pan. Remove the parchment and bake an additional 15 minutes.
We had this for dinner and thought that it was pretty good, although we do admit it’s nothing like moussaka (we love moussaka; well, we love all Greek food, actually). Still, it’s a good way to use some of those pesky eggplant and a great way to use up leftover brown rice. Four stars.