Thursday 21 February 2013

Turkey and Eggplant Parmagiana Casserole

One of the things I love about produce is how beautiful it is.  To me, the well stocked bins at the farmer's market look like jewel cases, filled with treasures of all shapes, sizes, and colours.  I cannot resist picking up all those treasures; experiencing their weight and texture, and their glorious scents.  

There are fewer treasures in the market at this time of year.  For those of us who try to shop seasonally, the long months of late winter and early spring can mean a seemingly endless repetition of the same few fruits and vegetables.  I'm pretty good at creating variety through different preparations but, even so, I long for the bright greens, deep reds, and rich purples that summer produce brings.  

You'll understand, then, why I was delighted to see beautiful eggplants at the market recently.  They were near flawless; dark purple with vibrant green caps.  I couldn't resist.  I picked one up and brought it home, intending to serve it for supper.

Plans changed, and my eggplant languished in the fruit dish on the counter for some days.  It didn't spoil, but I could tell from its diminishing weight and drying cap that I needed to use it up soon.

My fella requested eggplant parmagiana; a layered dish not unlike lasagna, made with breaded, fried eggplant slices instead of pasta.  I love the flavours too and I wanted to use up the eggplant, but I wasn't looking forward to the frying of the slices, or to assembling a layered dish. 

This casserole was my answer to my guy's request. It has the same great flavours as eggplant parmagiana, with less fat, and it's much quicker to assemble.

To make Turkey and Eggplant Parmagiana Casserole, you'll need:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced, about 1 cup
  • Finely minced garlic to taste (I used quite a lot: about 1-1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 1-680 ml/23 ounce tin of tomato sauce or about 3 cups of homemade sauce
  • 1-10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 680 grams/1.5 lbs. diced, cooked turkey breast (I had some in the freezer, removed from a roast turkey and set aside for use in another recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes to taste 
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella or a blend of melting cheeses (I used a mixture or mozzarella and edam)
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (not pictured)
  • Extra dried oregano and pepper for garnish

Begin by preparing the eggplant.  The skin can be quite bitter so I trim off about half of it, leaving half the eggplant unpeeled. Cut the trimmed eggplant into 1-inch dice.

Spread the diced eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over it, and season it with salt and pepper.

Bake the eggplant cubes at 400F until they soften and begin to take on a little colour around the edges.

When the eggplant is nearly cooked, use the remaining tablespoon of oil to saute the onion in a large pan.  

When the onion is tender and just beginning to take on a tiny bit of colour around the edges, add in the garlic and continue to cook for a few seconds more.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan, then mix in the spinach, turkey breast chunks, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

At this point, you can either transfer the ingredients to one large casserole dish or make individual portions.  I have several oval bakers with snap lids so I portioned the ingredients into six dishes.  (We used two for supper and I froze the rest.)

Top the casserole with mozzarella, then sprinkle the parmesan over top.  Garnish the dish dried oregano and freshly cracked black pepper.

The ingredients in the casserole are already cooked so you really only need it to heat through.  Bake the assembled dish in a 350F oven until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese melted.  (This took about 20 minutes for our individual portions.)

Serve this dish straight from the oven.  When it's really hot and the cheese is all nice and melty, it's very good indeed.  

Cook's note:

If you are freezing portions of this dish, seal the portions after adding the cheese topping and put them in the freezer unbaked.  

When you're ready to cook the frozen casseroles, put them in the oven frozen, with some foil over the top of the dish to prevent the cheese from over-cooking.  When the dish is heated through, remove the foil and turn the broiler on for a few minutes to give the cheese a little colour.

This post is linked to Hearthfelt Hopes blog hop hosted by Aliso Kitchen, to Hearth and Soul Blog hop hosted by Premeditated Leftovers, The 21st Century Housewife, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, and Savoring Today

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