Last week I was invited to dinner at a girlfriend’s home in Durham. She served a variation on this casserole with a nice green salad and I thought to myself, “How lovely and American!” primarily given that my Chinese sensibilities would never mix rice and cheese … which, in retrospect, was not quite the right thing to think given that my friend is actually Canadian 🙂
After eating the delicious meal and seeing this gorgeous looking version with orzo (whenever in doubt, I ask “what would Deb cook?”), I knew I had to make my own. This is perfect for the end of the summer when the farmer’s market is really an embarrassment of riches. I created this recipe as a forgiving template, easy comfort food flexible to whatever firm, cube-able vegetable is available. I had odd visions of lots of oregano (that is a spice that says “American comfort food” to me, probably because my mother used large amounts of it when she made spaghetti sauce), which I thought complimented the veggie mix nicely. Instead of adding soup stock to moisten the rice I used diced, juicy tomatoes… And let’s be honest, the cheese (even though I didn’t use thaaaaaaat much) adds a little slick of grease to the pan.
I used a mix of brown and white rice that I had pre-cooked during a previous meal (easy enough as long as you remember to do it!). In addition, I’ve found that when making recipes I often roughly double the amount of vegetables called for — what can I say, I love ’em — so change the ratio as you see fit. The veggies help lighten this dish up a bit, so I’m all for maximizing them while they’re fresh! All veggies (except for the onion and garlic) came directly from my CSA.
End-of-summer Vegetable Rice Casserole
Makes one rectangular baking dish (Serves 6-8 people)
- 1/2 a large onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2 medium sized eggplants, in small cubes
- 2 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 1 1/2 tomatoes, diced
- 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese (approximately 3/4-1 cup)
- Depending on how fresh your eggplant is (e.g. how much liquid is in the flesh), cube eggplant, place in a colander, and salt generously. After about 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry.
- While eggplant is resting, dice up other ingredients and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until they begin to soften.
- Add in bell pepper, and two minutes later, diced eggplant and sweet corn. Add garlic salt and oregano, and sauté until eggplant is softened but still has bite, and begins to brown a little.
- Mix in four cups of rice and heat through, mixing vegetable sauté thoroughly. Taste and add additional seasonings if necessary.
- Remove from heat and mix shredded cheese throughout. Transfer to a large glass baking pan.
- Cover the casserole with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-20 minutes, depending on how crisp you’d like the top to be.