I don’t frequently cook with eggplant since it has always felt a little finicky to me. While I love this Roasted Eggplant and Smoked Almonds Salad, I’ve been looking for some other ideas for cooking eggplant. Mom suggested this recipe and it is such a winner. This Baked Orzo with Eggplant is a great vegetarian dish. Next time I might add chickpeas to make it a complete meal all in one dish. This time I made a Celery and Chickpea Salad similar to this one for a little extra protein and some extra crunch. It was a great, light meal.
This recipe is a great example of how to adapt a recipe to what you have on hand. I realized after I started that I didn’t have tomato paste, so I made it work with a can of diced tomatoes. I reduced the amount of vegetable stalk to make up for the additional liquid in the canned tomatoes. I also added more carrots and celery because I’m always a fan of lots of vegetables. The point is, you don’t have to have every single ingredient to make a very tasty dish.
I really loved the lemon zest in this, it adds such a bright note, which keeps this feeling light and fresh. The original recipe calls for sliced tomatoes on top, but I only had grape tomatoes, so I sliced about a cup of them in half and added them to the top, but you could just as easily leave them out. If you happen to have fresh oregano on hand, you’ll want to double the amount of fresh herb.
What are your favorite eggplant dishes? Do you like to customize recipes to what you have on hand?
Baked Orzo with Eggplant
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 large eggplant (mine was 1 1/2 lbs), cut into 3/4-inch dice
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 oz orzo, rinsed
- 1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 lemon, zested
- 4 oz mozzarella, chopped
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Place diced eggplant in a colander and season with about 1 tsp Kosher salt. Let drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13″ pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Dry the eggplant. Add the eggplant to the skillet in an even layer and let cook without touching to allow the eggplant to get some color. Toss and repeat until the eggplant is nicely browned. Remove to a paper-towel lined dish to let drain.
Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet and sauté the carrots and celery. Sauté the onion, then add the garlic when the onion has softened. Cook for another minute or two or until fragrant, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Add the orzo, diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, oregano, and lemon zest. Mix in the cooked eggplant, mozzarella, and parmesan. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with grape tomatoes.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.