Wednesday dinner: Baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

Mix it all you want. Leave that damn thing uncovered. It can stand for a week. Something is up with this recipe.

Even though I followed it to the letter, I ran into an issue with there being a ton of liquid in the baking dish when I spooned out portions for The Wife and I. The veggies at the bottom were swimming in the puddled stock at the bottom of my Pyrex dish.

I usually don’t have these problems with Smitten Kitchen recipes. They’re, for the most part, rock solid and easily attainable. I’m chalking this up to somewhere between operator error and a necessary adjustment in the amount of stock used.

WHAT WORKED: The fresh vegetables. I undercooked them a little bit for texture and crunch.

WHAT DIDN’T: The stock. Seriously, it killed the dish.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “It tastes really good, surprisingly.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I highly doubt it.

Baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella
From Smitten Kitchen

  • 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, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 to 3 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
  • 4 oz. mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 oz. (a generous 1/2 cup or 45 grams) parmesan, grated
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, 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, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) 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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