I have been meaning to make this eggplant bake for weeks, but something always seems to come up. I love the combination of flavors and textures — tomato and saffron, and rice instead of pasta — and it looked so easy to put together.
Now that we are at the tail-end of eggplant season,* I have stopped getting eggplant in the CSA box, and I had to hunt some local eggplants down (thank you, Greenling!) to make this dish finally happen. I’m so glad I did, because it was utterly delicious.
* It’s a hot-weather crop. For some reason eggplant always brings to mind gooey comfort-food dishes like eggplant parmesan, so I didn’t realize it wasn’t a cold-weather veggie until we first joined a CSA.
The hubby, a reformed eggplant-hater, raved about it, and Nora scarfed down two servings.
I’d say it’ll be finding its way back to our table next time eggplant is plentiful!
- 2 large eggplants (about 2 lbs total)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional for brushing
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice
- pinch saffron
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 4 cups tomato sauce, divided
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella (or cubed fresh mozzarella), divided
- 1 cup grated parmesan, divided
- Slice the eggplant crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Lay the slices out on folded paper towels and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, and preheat the oven to 425°.
- Blot the moisture from the eggplant slices with paper towels and arrange on baking sheets. Brush or spray the slices on each side with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, turning once halfway through.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and stir until softened and translucent. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in the saffron and wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is slightly reduced, about 1 minute.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is al dente, about 8 minutes.** Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish or casserole of similar size. Layer about half of the eggplant slices over the top of the sauce. Add the saffron rice, spreading out in an even layer. Spread half of the mozzarella and half of the parmesan over the rice. Pour half of the remaining tomato sauce over the cheese and top with another layer of the remaining eggplant slices. Top with the remaining tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella and parmesan and cover the dish with foil.
- Bake until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.