With the turn of every season I ask myself which seasonal fare I like the most. Hmmm, too hard to decide. I love them all. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter - just take me to the Farmer's Market or show me the fresh produce and I am a happy girl.
When we were in Florida and the autumn/fall season meant the temperature would drop from 98 degrees to 85, I would change my recipes with the new incoming "season" and we would be eating really HOT chili while the temperature outside "was dropping". Which by the way, in Florida they say: "We only have two seasons, hot and sweltering". So while my children are still there and it is a "mild" 80 something degrees, I am happily enjoying a real fall season with temperatures in the mid 60's. I can now truly enjoy "cozying up" with my menu.
Which brings me to this casserole dish. Melitzanes me kima sti katsarola which is Greek for Eggplant Casserole. Eggplant is also known as Aubergines, Brinjal and Mad Apple. Aubergine also defined, means purple. Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family. Among which are the potato, tomato, peppers and even tobacco. I never knew this. And now for the best fall comfort meal I have had in many years...
Begin by chopping the vegetables into bite size pieces.
Assembling the ingredients.
Brown the ground meat.
Eggplant Casserole (My Way)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (preferably mediterranean or greek)
1 large eggplant, cubed
2 small zucchini, cubed
1/2 each green and red pepper, diced
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped and divided in half (yea, I cheated)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound ground chuck (you can also use-ground chicken,turkey,pork or lamb)
8 ounces V-8 juice (I wasn't in the mood for tomatoes but still wanted the flavor)
1/2 pound egg noodles
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
2 tespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350. In large frying pan over medium high heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute the onoin until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and cook for 2 minutes and then add mushrooms. Cook until just tender, about 3-4 minutes, stirring all the while. Next add peppers and cook for 5-7 minutes until they begin to soften. Add eggplant and zucchini and cook approximately another 10 minutes. All in all you do not want to burn your onion and garlic so if the heat is too high on your pan turn it down to medium. Set large pot of water on to boil for the egg noodles. Lastly for the vegetables, add the can of V-8 juice and the oregano. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half. When reduced by half remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. Wipe out your pan and add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and saute the remaining garlic until tranlucent. Add ground meat and cook until no longer pink. At the same time you are waiting for ground meat to cook through, cook egg noodles until al dente, drain and set aside. Spray 8" x 11" casserole dish with cooking spray of your choice ( I use canola spray). In your large mixing bowl, combine the vegetables, ground beef and the egg noodles. Pour into casserole dish and cover with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, remove foil and cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until cheese is nicely browned.