December 20, 2013

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Tomatoes





If your holidays are anything like mine, then the next week or two will be a study in decadence. There will be rich, roasted meats, hearty sides, and of course, lots and lots of cookies. Christmas only comes once a year, and I don't intend to shy away from its culinary celebrations.

But that means eating sensibly in the weeks before and after the holidays. With snow on the ground and temperatures already plummeting into the 20s, though, it's just too cold to pick at a bowl of lettuce.

What's a girl to do? One solution is to go heavy on the veggies. Mixed with just enough pasta and cheese to satisfy the entire family. 

This dish features eggplant, cooked until silky and tender. And tomatoes, warm and bursting with juice. It's a great way to feel virtuous while treating your tastebuds.



Peel and chop the eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and let it drain over a colander for 30 minutes.



Rinse well and pat dry.



Saute eggplant in olive oil until golden brown (dark in some spots). Remove will a slotted spoon and set aside.



Cook carrots and celery in the same pan.



Add onion and garlic and cook until everything is golden and tender.



Turn off the heat and add back the cooked eggplant.



Then add the orzo and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes.



Add tomatoes, thyme, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and stock to the pan.



Finally, add the cheeses and give it a good stir.



Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.



Bake until pasta is cooked and liquid is absorbed.






Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe by Yotom Ottolenghi

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, in a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo, rinsed
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 medium tomatoes, diced
4 ounces firm mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper


1.    Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry.

2.    Preheat oven to 350°F.

3.    Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally, until golden brown and dark in some spots. Remove with a slotted spoon.

4.    Add celery and carrots to frying pan and cook for 3 minutes. Then add onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat.

5.    Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more.

6.    Off the heat, add the thyme, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and vegetable stock. Finally, add the cheeses. Mix well.

7.    Transfer mixture to 1 2-quart ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You may need to bake it a bit longer until the pasta is cooked and all of the liquid is absorbed.)

8.    Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Serves 4



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