9/23/10

Grilled Eggplant Casserole

I created this recipe for three reasons:
1) too hot to cook indoors
2) loads of eggplant to harvest from my garden
3) I like the unmasked taste of eggplant

I planted two heirloom varieties of eggplant, Early Long and Black Beauty, starting from seeds last spring. Once in the garden, the plants kept getting eaten by some insect, despite my treatment with organic repellents. But as the season progressed, the bugs must have moved on, since now the three plants are large and producing abundantly, even though the leaves have holes. I made this recipe with freshly harvested Early Longs, but you can substitute other eggplant varieties. This is also a gluten-free version of Eggplant Parmesan, for those with dietary restrictions.

  • 3 lbs. eggplant (I used 15 of my long, skinny Early Long variety), peeled
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 2 T Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 c marinara sauce
  • 1 c grated mozzarella and/or Italian cheese blend (more if desired)

Using two 9"x12" foil pans, measure two tablespoons of olive oil into each and swirl to coat the bottom. Eggplant will oxidize and turn brown quickly after being cut, so don't cut up ahead of time. I peel the eggplant since sometimes the peel doesn't cook as tender as the pulp, but it's not bitter if freshly picked, so peeling is optional. Cut each long eggplant on the diagonal, into slices about 3/8" thick. Divide into the two oiled pans, and stir to coat. Drizzle one more tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of Italian herb seasoning over each pan, stir to mix well. Seal each pan with foil. I grilled on my two-burner gas grill, with each side lit and set a little above low. Grills vary, so you'll have to determine the best temperature setting for yours. Cook for 20 minutes. If the eggplant is softened and olive green in color, just starting to brown on the bottoms, it is done. If not, stir and continue to cook. When cooked, I transfer all of the eggplant into one of the pans to make a layer about 3/4" thick. Spread the marinara sauce on top, sprinkle on the cheese, cover with foil. I turn off one side of the gas grill and put the pan over it, keeping the other side on low. This indirect cooking method creates more of an oven. Cook covered for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook for 10-15 minutes more. We love this as a main dish, and it can be served with pasta as well.