Tomato Eggplant Bake
An eggplant’s subtle and distinctive combination of textures and flavors – smooth, fleshy, creamy, smoky – make it a versatile and beguiling component of many tasty dishes and this cheesy, delicious confection is no exception. Sure to be enjoyed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike; the tomato, onion and cheese give it just the right panache.
1 large tomato, sliced into rounds (you want the slices thick enough to maintain substance when baked)
1/2 white onion, sliced really thin
1 cup brown rice, cooked ahead of time according to package directions with the added addition of a pinch of saffron threads
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
4 ounces (or more) sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin, although the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. So to start, decide if you want to leave the skin on or remove it. Because the skin of purple eggplants contain its most valuable nutrient, a powerful antioxidant called nasunin, I recommend leaving the skin on, if possible. If you choose to remove the skin, first wash the eggplant, cut off and discard the stem and calyx, and then remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. Next, slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. If possible, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black.
Optional: to tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, sweat the eggplant by sprinkling slices with salt and allow them to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and also make the eggplant less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking. Rinse and pat dry the after “sweating” to remove excess salt.
Since eggplant soaks up oil up like a sponge, for this step, I roasted the slices. Coat the slices sparingly with walnut oil, fresh minced garlic and sea salt, arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 18 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. Remove eggplant from the oven and reduce the heat to 350F.
Now it’s time to assemble the dish. Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with the tomato slices. Next, add the onion slices and then the pre-cooked brown rice. (You can use quinoa, farro, kamut or any grain of choice). Top the rice with the roasted eggplant and layer everything with cheddar cheese. (You can use fresh mozzarella, Gruyère or any cheese of choice). I like a cheesy dish, so I topped the vegetables with a pretty healthy layer of cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the onions are tender and the cheese is melted and browned.
Eggplants have an interesting history, you can read about it here.
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