Happy New Year, dear readers! Like many of you, I’ve been plotting and planning for this coming year, trying to come up with ways to not only improve my business, but also myself, my marriage, my home (which looked like a tornado had gone through it just a few days ago while I was reorganizing just about everything), and this little blog.
I wanted my first dish of the year to reflect the way I’m feeling at the present—a little unsure about which way to go, but ready to grab life by the reigns and let it take me wherever the path may lead. And so I offer you this Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Saffron Rice Bake, which is in fact a combination of two classic Italian dishes, eggplant parmigiana and saffron risotto, although it’s a bit more healthful as the eggplant is baked instead of fried.
How can this dish possibly represent me, you ask? Like this dish, my background is varied—I’m trained in both professional cooking and writing—and I’m trying to find my path by combining the best of both worlds. This dish takes two wonderful meals and make them into one outstanding dish, and that’s just what I’m hoping to do with my career. It’s up for debate whether or not I should start working in restaurants for the experience, but it might just be the next step in this wild ride of mine. I can’t help but dream of owning my own restaurant someday—and I hope dishes like this, which are fun, clever, and downright delicious, will populate the menu. Until then, I’ll continue my work as The Delish Dish, cooking up a storm for friends, family, and clients.
Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Saffron Rice Bake
You can undercook the rice when you sauté it so it doesn’t get mushy when it bakes with the eggplant. Makes 4 servings. This recipe is adapted from one by Luce that appeared in the September 2012 issue of Bon Appétit. Click here to download a printable PDF copy of this recipe.
1 large eggplant (about 1.5 lb) cut crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, minced
½ cup Arborio rice
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2 cups store-bought tomato sauce (such as marinara), divided
8 ounce shredded mozzarella
½ cup coarsely grated Parmesan (2 ounces), divided
- Preheat to 425°. Arrange eggplant on a large rimmed baking sheet, overlapping slightly to fit. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning eggplant halfway through, until tender and golden brown, 20–25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in saffron, then wine. Cook until wine reduces slightly, about 1 minute. Add broth, and season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is very al dente and still crunchy, about 6 minutes; remove pan from heat.
- Cover the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with ½ cup tomato sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella over, then 1/3 of Parmesan.
- Cover with a layer of eggplant rounds, overlapping so hardly any sauce shows through. Add saffron rice, spreading it out in an even layer. Sprinkle over another 1/3 each of mozzarella and Parmesan, then ½ of the remaining tomato sauce and another layer of eggplant. Top with remaining tomato sauce and remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover dish with foil; transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Uncover dish and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to set before serving.