It’s been way too long since I professed my love for Yotam Ottolenghi. I blame it on the move. Three months of my cookbooks being in boxes. Three months! I know I can (and do) browse all my favorite websites and blogs for ideas, but it just isn’t the same as looking through my cookbooks. Luckily, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen recently featured this baked orzo dish and, between her pictures and my love for Ottolenghi, it was on the menu in no time flat.
I did make one change. With great tomatoes pretty much a memory until next summer, I used fire-roasted canned ones. I drained most of the juices because I didn’t want the tomato flavor to completely take over; I like eggplant too much not to taste it. If you’d like, feel free to keep the juices and reduce the amount of vegetable stock accordingly. I’m thinking next time I might add in some garbanzo beans for extra protein.
Deb, thank you for making this. You helped me feel like I had access to one of my favorite cookbooks. Mr. Ottolenghi, you’ve done it again–vegetarian perfection. Comfort, flavor, and stunning presentation all in one dish. It’s food like this that put eating at one of your London restaurants near the top of my culinary bucket list. I cannot wait for the day it happens. Until then, I’ll just keep doing my best with your cookbooks.
Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella
measurements adapted by Smitten Kitchen
originally from Yotam Ottolenghi
1 large (about 1/1/4 lbs.) eggplant, cut into 3/4-in. cubes
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-in. dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-in. dice
1 medium red onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. orzo, rinsed
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock
1-3 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped (I used 3)
1 tsp. lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
4 oz. mozzarella, firmer is better, cut into 1/3-in. dice
generous 1/2 c. Parmesan, grated
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 (15-oz.) can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 c. cooked garbanzo beans (optional)
1. Generously sprinkle eggplant with salt and let sit in a
colander for 30 minutes. (This will remove excess moisture and bitterness.) Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. (You can prep the other ingredients during this time.)
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium-high
heat. Add the oil to hot pan. When oil begins to shimmer, add eggplant and fry 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a
slotted spoon or spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain, leaving as much oil behind as possible.
celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook 3 minutes. Add
onion and garlic, reduce heat to medium, and cook together 5 minutes more.
4. Add orzo and tomato paste to the pan, stirring to break up paste, and cook 2 minutes. Remove skillet from
heat and add oregano, both cheeses, tomatoes, eggplant,
lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, a generous amount of black pepper, and the
stock. If using garbanzo beans, add them at this point. Stir to mix thoroughly.
5. Transfer mixture to a 2-qt. ovenproof baking
dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more. (If you don’t like a crunchy surface, leave foil on longer, up to 30 minutes.) Let rest for 5 minutes before
serving. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6-8 as a side.