Start to Finish: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
This Mediterranean-inspired casserole is an easy way to use up extra produce from your garden or an overly ambitious trip to the farmers market. Serve it hot or make it a few hours ahead and serve the dish at room temperature. While the basic recipe is vegetarian, you could add bacon, pancetta or prosciutto to intensify the flavors and satisfy an omnivore's palate. Serve with Mediterranean-style flatbread or baguette slices to sop up the sauce.
1 large eggplant
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 to 4 ounces bacon, pancetta or prosciutto, diced (optional)
- 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
- 2 ounces kalamata olives, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt the Eggplant
Peel and slice the eggplant lengthwise into strips. Lay the slices out in a single layer on a wire rack over a baking sheet and sprinkle them generously on both sides with sea salt. Let them sit for one hour. The salt will pull most of the moisture out of the eggplant, preventing it from getting soggy later.
Pat the slices dry with a clean towel.
Get the eggplant as dry as you can -- it will absorb more of the flavors in the sauce if it is dry.
Assemble and Bake the Casserole
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the shallot and garlic for one minute, until they are soft and pungent. Add the meat -- if you are using it -- and cook until the ingredients are crispy.
Pour the stewed tomatoes, including their juice, into the pan. Add the olives, salt, basil and oregano and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
If you have fresh tomatoes on hand, feel free to use them here. Cut them into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices and layer them with the eggplant. As they cook, they will release their juices, moistening the casserole.
Lay half of the eggplant slices in a single, slightly overlapping layer on the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour half of the sauce over the eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and sauce.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and the sauce has thickened. Sprinkle the feta cheese and panko breadcrumbs over the top. Return the dish to the oven for 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned.
The beauty of the casserole is its versatility. Want more vegetables? Add them. Looking for a heartier meal? Include sausage in your casserole. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Veggie Medley, inspired by Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Tian, published in Cooking Light: Layer zucchini, summer squash and fresh tomato in the casserole dish. Top it with seasoned aromatics and cook as directed previously.
- Meat Lovers' Eggplant Casserole, inspired by Penne with Sausage, Eggplant and Feta, published in Cooking Light: Fry mild -- or spicy, if you like it hot -- bulk Italian sausage and spread it in a single layer on the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer the eggplant over the sausage, then continue to build the casserole as directed. Sprinkle crumbles of feta cheese on top just before baking.