On a long plane ride I sat beside a woman from Hot Springs, Arkansas. She realized I had a big garden and offered me a recipe for an eggplant dish served at the Hot Springs Hotel. I scratched out the recipe on the back of my ticket packet. It sounded pretty interesting.
Once home, I assembled the ingredients and put together the Hot Springs Hotel specialty. Heavenly! It is actually an eggplant dressing with lots of breadcrumbs. We use VERY little bread in this home, so the recipe has been shelved for a number of years, until yesterday.
The intense flavors of this great recipe are back in our kitchen, adapted without breadcrumbs. This is a rich and densely flavored casserole made a bit easier by using brown rice pilaf left from a previous meal. The leftover pilaf was planned, of course. I prepare pilaf in the largest skillet we have and I fill it to the top.
This dish is brimming with vegetables and fresh things to wash and chop. Speed up the dinner prep by recruiting some kitchen help. There is no experience required!
Plan on making a huge casserole and having two or three meals from it during the week or make several small casseroles and pop the extras into the freezer.
This dish is best when all the vegetables and basil are fresh, harvested on the day you plan to cook it if you are lucky enough to be growing them. Alternatively, plan to cook it on the day you’ve been to the farmers market.
The flavor of this dish is so intense, I’m getting excited about it even doing this writing!
Eggplant Casserole Ingredients
(These are amounts for a 9×13 baking dish. Generously serves 6.)
- 1/2 cup high heat oil of choice
- 2 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
- 12 sweet peppers, a mix of Italian and banana peppers, cubed
- 24 mushrooms, sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 3/4 shredded fresh basil leaves
- 5 cups brown rice pilaf
- 1 cup chicken bone broth (or vegetable broth)
- 3 cups shredded jack cheese
- Salt and pepper
Eggplant Casserole Steps
- Place the eggplant cubes in a bowl. Drizzle with about 1/4 of oil, tossing it with your hand while drizzling. The eggplant will drink it up! Sprinkle on sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Using your hand, oil a large baking sheet that has sides. Pour the eggplant cubes onto the baking sheet. Spread them out. This needs to be a single layer and best with just a bit of space between the cubes. They roast better that way.
- Place the baking sheet into a 400 degree oven on the bottom rack. The cubes will roast for about 30-35 minutes. Halfway through the roast time, toss the cubes with a spatula for more even roasting.
- Oil a second baking pan and toss on the pepper cubes. Spread them out as you did the eggplant. This baking sheet goes on the upper rack in the oven. The peppers roast much more quickly than the eggplant, so you might pull them out when you do the halfway eggplant tossing.
- While the eggplant and peppers are roasting, melt the butter in a LARGE skillet. When the butter begins to sizzle, add the crushed garlic. A minute later add the mushrooms and toss to thoroughly coat the mushrooms with the garlic butter. Let the mushrooms cook for about 3 minutes then add the white wine. Cook another minute or two and add the basil.
- Add the brown rice pilaf to the large skillet with the mushrooms. Add a cup of chicken broth and pop on a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat to low and let the heat do the work for about five minutes. The pilaf need to be hot and hydrated.
- Your eggplant and peppers are probably ready at this point. Add them to the pilaf and mushroom mix and toss everything together.
- Oil a 9×13 baking dish. Pile the rice and veggie mix in. Press the mix down, using a spatula. Sprinkle the jack cheese over the top and pop the casserole into the oven for a few moments. Remember, the oven is still on and hot! The cheese will melt in a jiffy.
Now you are ready to feast. If you allow this casserole to set for about 15 minutes after coming from the oven, it will serve more neatly. Don’t worry. It’s still very hot. Serve with garden fresh tomatoes.