Eggplant Quinoa Casserole--Showing Northern France Some Spice

Returning to Quimper after our Brittany tourism dayJohn and I were told that we would have to prepare dinner for ourselves since Hubert and Agnes had an engagement elsewhere. Having grown accustomed to having our meals prepared for us by our Wwoofing hosts, upon hearing this, we collapsed into each other’s arms, sobbing.
eggplant recipe
the moment of truth
Just kidding. We’ve both really missed cooking, actually. Being on the receiving end of so many drool-worthy meals is not something I can really complain about, but it is kind of like being a singer with laryngitis at a sing-along, or a soccer player with a broken leg, or Snooki with a new spray tan but no hideous dress to show it off.
eggplant recipe
Homemade Pesto Tapenade + Sriracha Tapenade

baked eggplant recipe
Oh eggplant, you're so beautiful when you're
oiled and par-baked
The point is, I was ready to get back in the game, and we came back on the scene with a mind-blower. Simple, beautiful, and healthy…this is something you’re going to have to make. The result of all these flavors coming together is a complex, moist, and amazing taste explosion. It's vegetarian, but I promise that you will not miss the meat. And can I add that it costs somewhere around $1.50 per serving? Don’t fight the magic.

Eggplant Quinoa Casserole
·         1 1/2 cup quinoa (can substitute bulgur)
·         2 medium eggplants, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
·         4 medium garlic cloves, minced
·         1/3 c spicy tapenade (mix 2 tbsp sriracha (recipe here) & 3 tbsp black olive tapenade—adjust this as you see fit if that sounds terrifyingly spicy)
·         1/2 c pesto tapenade (mix 1/4 cup pesto & 1/4 cup green or black olive tapenade)*
·         2 heirloom tomato sliced in 1/4-inch rounds or 2 cups (12-20) cherry tomatoes, cut in half**
·         1 cup packed grated cheese (I suggest Swiss, Parmigianno, or Manchego)
·         1 tsp turmeric
·         1 tsp paprika
·         tsp cumin
·         1 tsp salt
*If pesto isn't in season, you can always double the spicy tapenade or replace with more tapenade or chopped olives
** If you're feeling lazy, just mix in a can of no-salt diced tomatoes with the quinoa

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If the tapenades are in the refrigerator, take them out so they'll be easier to spread later.

Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds. Lay flat on baking pan. Brush liberally with olive oil and sprinkle on a good pinch of salt. Pop in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, flipping mid-way, until nearly cooked-through(we’ll finish it off later).

While cooking the eggplant, bring quinoa and spices to boil with three cups water over high heat (this way the spices are absorbed by the quinoa). Turn heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until water is completely soaked up and quinoa is tender (if not, you can just add a little water at a time and keep cooking). Do not let quinoa get too mushy. Set aside.
Can you guess which step this is??
Time to assemble! Spread ½ the quinoa over the bottom of a baking pan (any size larger than 8x8 will do), and pack it in tightly. Layer ½ of the eggplant down over this, then spread the spicy tapenade atop (or just spoon little blobs all over—it’ll spread when it melts). Follow with a layer of half of the sliced tomatoes, all the chopped garlic, and half of the cheese.

Add the rest of the quinoa, pack it down, and add the rest of the eggplant. Spread the pesto tapenade over this, the rest of the tomatoes, and the rest of the cheese (I used cherry tomatoes in the pictured recipes, so I put them on top because I liked that more visually).

Drizzle a little EVOO, salt, & pepper over the top, and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15, set oven to broil and cook until the cheese is beginning to turn brown and crispy. Take it out of the oven. Stay calm. Take a picture (am I the only one who does that?). Have a seat. Chow.
eggplant recipe
I feel things for you
Apart from the fact that this is an amazing and complete meal, it's extra exciting because it's meatless and therefore super cheap. Check out the Meatless Monday "movement" and this article on the results of skipping meat only one day a week.  It's not painful when it tastes this good.
eggplant quinoa recipe
y'all ready for this?
The Savings: This recipe will astound tasters when they realize that they don't miss meat at all. So, the beautiful thing is that you have a great, nutritionally complete recipe, and since you skip the meat, it costs next to nothing (eggplant is usually around $1-3/lb!). I definitely recommend making your own tapenade (click here for my low-cost recipe) because grocery stores tend to overcharge on the stuff.

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