Casserole. A word redolent of the ’50s and ’60s with maybe a glimpse into the ’70s.
Dated. Casseroles are dated. Just like wood-stained kitchen cabinetry, and appliances that aren’t stainless steel. (As in my kitchen!)
Proud to own a “dated” kitchen in my new home! — go check out Houzz/GardenWeb if you want to know more about being dated!
BTW, if you look at their Kitchen Forum, people posting there DO have very practical ideas for actual and extremely practical kitchen design, which I happily drew upon when designing this new kitchen, and I highly commend them for that. I also enjoy their Cooking Forum for some great recipes and discussions. It’s just the décor / decorator people I sometimes have issues with — “dated” is a word flung about all-too-frequently! Um, dated is using washboards in suburbia, or anywhere where you have an alternative. Style is what you prefer… )
You can skip my diatribe on American “comfort food” by bypassing the next two or three paragraphs You may have wanted to skip the last paragraph or two, maybe??
I don’t know about you, I usually loved the casserole dishes Mom came up with when I was a kid. Usually, they depended on leftovers, but not always. Some of them were planned, like the dish I am creating to post today. I liked them far better than those alleged staples of “comfort food” such as traditional meatloaf made with breadcrumbs, or mac and cheese (which when we had it, turned out to be on nights when the parents were going out so they didn’t have to eat it… since they were going out, they always made it from the Kraft box, with a little extra cheddar added — nothing especially comforting about that, especially since both my parents were such good cooks to begin with!).
[Just to note, I’ve upped my ante on meatloaf here and here – a result of a LOAD of ground beef from a CSA beef share, and wanting to do something DIFFERENT with that meat (at that time I was almost entirely Paleo; I am about 80-85% eating Paleo today; I honor Paleo for teaching me meatloaf can actually TASTE good if you sub the silly breadcrumbs out for some great veggies…); and I discovered having real live veggies in a skillet mac and cheese — along with a good mix of complementary cheeses — while obviously NOT Paleo, ups the ante on mac and cheese, as per here. Oh, my brother made a spectacular lobster mac and cheese with onions and bell peppers, but lobster isn’t going to be a frequent occurrence…]
But the casseroles were almost always intensely fun. Mom did come up with a few standards (notably the post-Thanksgiving turkey casserole, composed of the meat, dressing, sweet potatoes/white potatoes, perhaps some broccoli or whatever other green vegetable had gone with the meal, with a layer of melty cheese on top); but they’d often be dependent on what was leftover hanging out in the fridge, and dressed with herbs and spices at educated whim.
Here we go, though, with some of that ras al hanout I made in September… I just love the versatility of this seasoning! Eggplant dishes are often eaten in Morocco (don’t know about the apple, but it wanted to hop in…)
For the eggplant, I used the thin-skinned Asian varieties, because I didn’t want to have to bother removing the skin on the tougher European ones. If you only have access to the European ones, either cut the skin off, or if you are fine eating it, go for it. It should be rich in fiber!
By the way, there are two grades of avocado oil out there. I buy the big bottles from Costco or BJ’s, and they are rated for high temperature cooking. The other (very pricy) type is for salad dressings or other cold-use applications. Coconut oil is also good, and would work in this dish, but I find for many dishes, that coconut oil may impart too much a flavor. (You could use leaf lard; I have a lard rendering recipe upcoming, but I wanted this dish to be vegetarian.)
This casserole (if without the optional cheese) is vegan, Paleo and Whole 30 compliant. I still always will love a great casserole!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 50 minutes + 30 minutes.
Rest Time: cool this enough to eat without burning yourself.
Serves: 2 as a main; probably 4 as a side.
Eggplant, Apple and Onion Casserole with Ras al Hanout
- 1 pound / 0.5 kg of eggplant, sliced into approximately quarter inch rounds. If you use Asian eggplants you won’t need to peel them. If you like the peels on European ones, carry on without peeling.
- 1/2 medium-large onion, further halved and sliced thin.
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- About 1 tablespoon cooking (avocado) oil.
- 1 apple, cored and coarsely diced. I leave the peel on.
- 1 tablespoon ras al hanout, home-made or store-bought.
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed.
- Sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
- Optional: a hot chili pepper, de-seeded and finely diced. My home-made ras al hanout was spicy enough that today I left out this option. Taste and see what you need to do!
- Optional: Shaved Asiago cheese. I’d recommend this over the faux parmesean I ended up using , because apparently I’d already consumed my Asiago. Don’t always do as I do, but you could consider doing as I say… ? Or leave the cheese off entirely!
Pre-heat your oven to 450 F / 230 C.
Prepare the eggplant and onion, place in a pan for the oven. Coat the eggplant with lemon juice, to slow down browning (and it does add a bit of flavor). Add the cooking oil and mix with your hands to coat for roasting.
Cover with foil pressing the foil down so that the eggplant steams inside the pan while cooking.
Roast for 45-55 minutes – this will depend on how thick your layers of food in the pan are. You want the eggplant soft. Remove, reset oven temperature to 350 F / 175 C.
Allow the eggplant/onion to cool a little.
Coarsely mash with a potato masher. (With the onion in there, you won’t get a smooth texture anyways.)
Prep the apple and the crushed garlic.
Add these ingredients, along with all seasonings, to the casserole, mix, and, using the back of a serving spoon, lay it flat against the pan you are planning to serve the casserole in.
If you want cheese on top, now is the time to add that.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, uncovered. (You can always prep everything up to this step in advance. Store in fridge prior to this last step, if you do decide to break the process up. You may need to bake for up to the 35 minutes in such a case.
An excellent early lunch here today!!!
Linking to Fiesta Friday, a good resource for excellent foods. Your co-hosts this week at that venue are: Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes, who are helping serve up delicious meals!
Linking to What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up! for even more wondrous foods!
AND, starting up over at Full Plate Thursday, for another batch of great eats!