My Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month of November was The Recipe Taster. I loved reading how he became interested in food and cooking at a young age:
“My childhood in Sicily was spent splattering colors or sketching on anything at hand and getting dirty with clay or gypsum. Soon though, TV chefs motivated me to take advantage of the free kitchen in those few afternoons that I was left alone at home. I can still remember the first gooey meringues I prepared; perched on top of a silver presentoir, over a delicately embroidered white linen napkin, they waited on the kitchen table for my parents’ return, a token of gratitude for what they did and will be doing for me.
It wasn’t until I moved to Florence, in 1997, for University that I found myself in charge of my own food. The big city meant exposure to foreign food, new ingredients, new inspirations that fed my ever increasing curiosity. Soon all my house-mates relied on me for their dinners.”
When perusing the blog there were many recipes that were worthy of a feature, however I decided to make “Mom Francesca’s Eggplant and Onion Casserole” for TWO reasons…
- I really like eggplant and am always looking for new ways to prepare it.
- My mom’s name is Francis and she had Italian as one of her majors in college
It was simply meant to be.
I made the recipe according to the instructions below from The Recipe Taster’s website, with the exception of the olive oil. I used the tiniest amount to grease the bottom of the casserole and did not drizzle any more oil onto the casserole. What resulted was a casserole which was a bit dry looking on top after baking, but that was easily remedied by mixing the casserole prior to serving…you won’t even miss the oil and your heart will thank you!
MOM FRANCESCA’S EGGPLANT and ONION CASSEROLE
Ingredients (serve 4-6 people):
- 300g onions, mixed red and yellow
- 600g eggplant, about 2 medium ones
- 45g/1/4cup quinoa
- red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
- dried oregano, to taste
- 1 small can chopped tomatoes in juice
- extra virgin olive oil (I barely used any)
- 1/3 cup white wine
Set your oven to 200C/390F and while it is eating up prepare the vegetables.
Trim the stem and flower ends from the eggplants and cut them into 3-4 drums across their length. Lay the drums cut side down and cut them vertically into planks about 5 mm/1/5″ thick and set aside.
Peel the onions, cut them in half and then into slices about 3mm/1/10″ thick.
To build the casserole, chose an oven-proof dish that could accommodate the ingredients in at least 2 layers.
Grease the bottom of the dish with about 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I used about 1/2 of that), place some of the onions on it followed by the eggplants (if the pieces are too wide to fit in, tear them in halves using your hands). Sprinkle the eggplants with some of the quinoa and salt. Add a pinch of oregano, red pepper flakes (if using). Cover with some of the tomato pieces.
Continue layering the ingredients as described until either the oven dish is filled up or the ingredients run out.
Finish the casserole with a layer of onions a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Pour the white wine over the vegetables and bake the casserole for about 1h-1h30m or until cooked through. To test for doneness try a piece of eggplant, it should still retain some bite but must be cooked through. Check the casserole every now and then and if the top is browning too fast, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.
Baked Casserole Prior to Mixing
Baked Casserole AFTER Mixing
Let the casserole cool down a bit before serving since it will be boiling hot. Coincidentally, this dish is great even served at room temperature.