|ESTIMATED CALORIC INFO|
|Serving Size||1 square|
|Calories from Protein||30%|
|Calories from Fat||30%|
|Calories from Carbs||40%|
It’s starting to get chilly out again, and fall is only a week or two away now. I love this time of year because you still get the tail end of the summer vegetables – most are still available even if maybe not as plentiful – and you finally get a break from what is usually some horrendous heat.
And it means you can use your oven again freely, without fear of the Sweltering Ungodly Hellfire Kitchen of Doom™.
So on that note, a casserole.
This went over very well with the wife, and it’s a great dish because it’s one of the sort you can riff on really easily depending on what vegetables – or even meats, for that matter – you have available. I had some eggplant from my last CSA delivery that needed to be used ASAP, plus a few other things that probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer either.
I still more or less consider myself an eggplant noob, so I’m always looking for new recipes to use it in. The basis for this one came from EggplantRecipes.net (fittingly enough), but I’ve made some significant changes. Added some chicken (it’s easily a filling vegetarian dish if you simply leave it out), left out the pimento, and plain forgot the onion.
I also subbed in some squash, since I didn’t really have quite enough eggplant to go around. My CSA delivers some really tasty eggplant, but it tends to never quite be enough.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go ahead and begin.
For this recipe you will need one baking dish, one blender, two medium-sized mixing bowls, and a couple empty bellies.
|ESTIMATED FOOD MILES|
|Bread Crumbs||20 miles|
|Brown Sugar||??? miles|
|Bell Pepper||0 miles|
|Soy Milk||??? miles|
|Heavy Cream||200 miles|
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 small chicken breasts (about 10-12 oz.)
- 2 large eggplants (or in my case, several small ones and a squash)
- 1 cup bread crumbs (make your own if at all possible)
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 medium size tomatoes
- 1 celery stalk
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper (or other pepper of your choice)
- 1/2 tsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp powdered saffron
- 1/2 cup soy milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
1. Trim and dice up the chicken. Make sure your pieces are small so that they will cook through quickly.
2. In a small pan with olive oil, cook the chicken over medium heat until there is still just a little pink left. Don’t cook it quite all the way yet, because you’ll be baking it as well and otherwise it will be overdone and chewy. Just, sort of, pre-cook it a bit.
3. Slice eggplant into discs and line the bottom of a medium size baking dish, then salt and sprinkle half of the brown sugar over top. Reserve some of the eggplant for a second layer.
4. In one of your mixing bowls, add bread crumbs and the remainder of the brown sugar and mix well.
5. Seed and dice tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, and add to the other mixing bowl. Use a microplane to grate the garlic clove over it, or just mince it with a knife and add to the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.
6. Season vegetable bowl with oregano and saffron.
Saffron is the most expensive spice out there. But it’s not expensive because it’s rare, it’s expensive because of how tedious it is to harvest. Saffron is harvested from a saffron crocus – a relatively easy to grow flower – but it must be harvested individually, manually, as the threads are pulled from inside an open flower. What’s more is that the flowers are only open a few hours a day, usually before sunrise. And the threads only have about a 20 day window in which they can be harvested. They grow from bulbs, maybe I’ll try to grow some someday.
You can leave the saffron out but flavor and color will be missing. It will still make for a good dish, though. Unfortunately, there are no great substitutes for saffron – some people suggest turmeric, which comes close in color, but really is not the same flavor at all.
7. Layer vegetable mixture with spices over eggplant in baking dish.
8. Add mostly-cooked chicken, and half of the cashews.
9. Top with remaining eggplant slices.
10. Sprinkle half of the bread crumb mixture over top of the final eggplant layer.
11. Add remaining cashews, heavy cream, and soy milk to a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth, try not to whip the heavy cream too much.
12. Pour milk mixture over eggplant in the baking dish.
13. Add shredded cheese and remaining bread crumbs to the top of the dish. Go light on the cheese, we’re not making a pizza here. You could really abstain from it entirely, but I thought it will help increase my chances of spousal approval. I was right.
14. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes, or until top is a golden brown.
I was so hungry at this point, I couldn’t even focus. This was delicious, and it re-heats pretty well too. You’ll get about 6-8 servings out of it.