Stuck for quick dinner ideas? Tomatoes — canned or fresh — add richness and flavor to this easy-to-make, satisfying eggplant casserole.
For gardeners who love tomatoes, tomato season is both a joy and a burden. It’s a joy because nothing beats a fresh tomato as a snack, as an add-on to a sandwich, as a quick sauce for pasta, as a side dish, sliced and topped with a drizzle of oil and vinegar and a sprinkling of salt. As we walk through the garden, we pop cherry tomatoes in our mouths, almost without thinking.
The thinking part does come. What to do with all those tomatoes? Whether all those tomatoes will be enjoyed fresh or whether they will be canned, I have a recipe for you.
101 One-Dish Dinners is filled with recipes that bring dinner to the table quickly, with a minimum of fuss. There are a lot of my family favorites contained in those pages, a lot recipes that are streamlined for speed and ease. These are the recipes that my husband makes when I am out of town and my adult kids make for themselves and their friends.
The one ingredient that makes a lot of these recipes sing is the tomato — fresh in one-dish salads, or canned in soups and stews we crave in cooler weather. In fact, I counted 22 out of the 101 recipes in the book that use tomatoes in one form or another.
So, how do you calculate just how much of your harvest you’ll need to preserve? Let’s say you might want to make one of these recipes approximately every two weeks. That means you’ll want to put up 26 quarts of tomatoes. But, of course, just about everyone is going to want to make some form of spaghetti — with meat sauce, with sausage, or with a simple tomato sauce — every two weeks, so that’s another 26 quarts of sauce or purée you’ll need. Homemade pizza is so much better than the greasy store-bought or delivery pizza, so add another 14 quarts of sauce or purée. That’s 64 quarts of tomato products. And I haven’t even thought about ketchup or salsa yet.
While I am in a calculating mood, let me add that a lot of recipes in 101 One-Dish Dinners and elsewhere call for a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes. That’s equivalent to a quart of home-canned tomatoes (mine weigh in at anywhere between 25 and 40 ounces, depending on the variety and how much I managed to squish in). Another way to look at equivalents is that a 28-ounce can holds 3 cups. So you can drain your home-canned tomatoes (save the juice), measure, and return enough liquid to make 3 cups. Or just figure that your quart of home-canned tomatoes is equivalent to a 28-ounce can and don’t sweat the difference.
Now I have to go — I have more tomatoes to can. And when I’m done, I’ll whip up a dinner with a recipe from 101 One-Dish Dinners. Last night I made Tuscan Tuna Salad with White Beans and the night before it was Antipasto Pasta Salad. Now, with abundant eggplant and fall weather on the horizon, a satisfying dish of oven-baked moussaka fits the bill nicely. Quick one-dish meals make life so much easier when you are busy.
A layered casserole of eggplant and lamb in a tomato sauce, moussaka is Greek in origin but popular throughout the Middle East. It is another great make-ahead dish, perfect for festive gatherings.
Serves 6 to 8
- Olive oil
- 1½ pounds ground lamb
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 ounces) tomato purée
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch sugar
- 4 eggplants (4–5 pounds), peeled and sliced ⅜ inch thick
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the lamb, onion, and garlic in the oil until the lamb loses its pink color, about 10 minutes. Drain off as much fat as possible.
- Stir in the tomato purée, wine, oregano, and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar. Reduce the heat and let simmer while you prepare the eggplant.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Arrange the eggplant in a single layer on the broiler pan. Brush the tops with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil until browned, about 7 minutes. Turn, brush the second side with oil, and broil for about 5 minutes, until browned. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. You will have to do this in about three batches. When the broiling is completed, lower the oven temperature to 350˚F.
- To prepare the topping, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour to form a smooth paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, stirring frequently until the sauce is smooth and thick. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg.
- To assemble, layer one-third of the eggplant in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Top with a third of the meat sauce and sprinkle with a third of the Parmesan. Repeat to make two more layers with the remaining eggplant, meat sauce, and Parmesan. Spoon the white sauce over the top.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Serve hot.