I had a few eggplants and a bunch of ugly tomatoes sitting on my counter and I knew I needed to do something with them pretty quickly before the tomato and/or eggplant pile grew even more as my garden continues to produce delicious veggies for us this month. This simple Indian Eggplant and Tomato Casserole is a great summer recipe to use some in-season veggies and it’s also a perfect “meatless Monday” meal to start your week!
We don’t necessarily follow a meatless Monday rule around here but we certainly do eat quite a bit of vegetarian fare throughout the week. You might have heard the reports issued recently about the fact that eating less meat (specifically non-local beef) can be better for the environment than reducing the amount of time spent in your car. While this observation isn’t new and it does give us some food for thought… what is even more important than reducing the amount of steaks you might be eating with your family at the next barbecue is to actually eat everything in your refrigerator (or on your counter) before you go to the store or farmers market to buy more food.
|A few of my “ugly” tomatoes
The average American family throws away about 25% of their weekly grocery purchase. That number is mind-boggling. I used to be guilty of running to the store 2 or 3 times a week just to “grab one thing” because I had “nothing” in the house to cook for dinner. Four small kiddos put the kibbosh on that bad habit and I quickly learned that, unless my cupboards were truly bare, I really did have enough ingredients in the house to make something for dinner. (To read a very short article from the New York Times Health section on the topic of food waste, click here.)
People often ask me if I have a recipe system or use a weekly menu to help make my nightly dinners easier and I have tried that approach many times but I found that I always wasted food. My grandmother, born in 1920, had a phrase that she heard often as a child and repeated it to her children and grandchildren .. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This eggplant tomato casserole recipe is a perfect example of using up what I have. It might take a little practice to get comfortable with this maverick cooking style, but once you get used to it, I think you will love it.
|Assorted Eggplant from Edgerton Farm
2 to 3 eggplants, sliced in thin circles
A bunch of tomatoes, chopped (6 medium)
2 small onions, chopped
4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 cups (or so) shredded mozzarella
I took a couple of the eggplants (delicious specimens from Edgerton Farm) sitting on my counter and sliced them thinly, sprinkling them with a little salt and layering them on a cookie sheet so they could “sweat” a bit. I chopped up a couple of small onions and garlic and all the ugly tomatoes that were lounging around on my counter. By ugly tomato, I mean those tomatoes that are either bruised or split or partially green. If you have a garden, I’m sure you know what I am talking about! While it would be nice if every tomato I grew came out perfectly round and vibrantly red, the truth is far from that. However, once you chop these up and start cooking, no one will ever know they started out less than pretty.
|Layers of tomato sauce, eggplant, and cheese
I lightly sauteed the onions and garlic, adding all the chopped tomatoes and about 1 tablespoon of garam masala – a delicious Indian spice that you can probably get at your grocery store. I have found garam masala here in Charlotte at my local Harris Teeter and Earth Fare. The house took on a wonderful aroma. I cooked my tomatoes over medium heat, lightly breaking them up as they cooked, until I had basically created my own Indian-spiced, slightly chunky, tomato sauce.
Taking a large, round casserole, I took a spoonful of tomato sauce and spread it around the bottom. I layered the sliced eggplant over top and added a little more tomato sauce. I sprinkled shredded mozzarella cheese over the sauce and repeated my layers – eggplant, sauce, cheese – until I had used up all of my ingredients.
|This dish was a wedding gift … I need to use it more!
Make sure your last layer is cheese, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees and let it cook for about 30 minutes. My children had thirds! Don’t expect any leftovers unless you increase the ingredients and cook it in a lasagna pan. Enjoy!