Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

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The Smitten Kitchen never lets me down. I have been using way too many of Deb’s recipes as of late and know I should branch out already but they just never let me down! I made her Raspberry Buttermilk Cake again this weekend because it was so delicious the first time–except this time I forgot to add the egg. The egg! How do you forget this!? I realized it right when I put the cake in the oven and in an “oh shit what do I do now” moment, I took the cake out and whisked in the egg. All that delicious sugar that was on top intended for the crispy topping got mixed in with the egg and I sulked. I sulked again a few minutes later when I realized I forgot to add more sugar for the topping now that the intended sugar was mixed into the batter. Aghhh!

Luckily, cooking this dinner went a lot smoother. Other than a lottttttt of chopping, this was a super easy meal to make! The prep on this alone took me almost 45 minutes but most of the can be attributed to the fact that I’m so slow at chopping veggies. It can take me 10 minutes to chop garlic sometimes…

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The result was delicious! Some vegetarian dinners leave you wanting something meaty (at least that’s the case for me) but this one was so satisfying. The eggplant was just meaty enough to make me forget I was missing meat. Even my carnivore-boyfriend said this dish was a winner after his initial trepidation about a dinner with all veggies (and a little orzo).

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If you have some time to do the prep, this is such a great meal–you won’t be disappointed!

Recipe from the always reliable Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from Yotam Ottolenghi), altered  slightly.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
Salt and black pepper
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 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup vegetable broth plus 1 cup water
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
4 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
3 medium tomatoes, diced
The zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

Season eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Then rinse it well and pat it dry with a towel.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil add then add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more.

Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, Parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, the broth, 1 teaspoon table salt and many grinds of black pepper. Mix well.

Transfer mixture to an 9×13 ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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