Lebanese Layered Casserole

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So recently I’ve been on a bit of roll with Middle Eastern cuisine. I’ve always loved the spices associated with the region, and recently decided I needed to look up some more traditional recipes.

Even for the more classic, slightly unadventurous eater, this is a sure bet. I mean… it has a tomato sauce and melted mozzarella on top. That’s hard to beat. I know the directions may seem slightly overwhelming with multiple steps, but don’t turn away! I’ve organized in this way to make it clear that you cook each “layer” before making the casserole. Then you just layer and bake.

Oh, and one other thing- if you’re not an eggplant fan, I seriously encourage you to try this anyway. Most people are turned off by eggplant because of its texture. If undercooked or poorly cooked, it can come out leathery and well… bad. Here, broiling plus baking give the eggplant a luxurious texture that is anything but leathery.

Okay. Enough of arguing for you to try this recipe already. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Lebanese Layered Casserole

Adapted from the NY Times

  • 2 eggplants, sliced thinly (about 1/2” thick)

  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2” piece ginger, grated or minced

  • 1 pound ground beef (I actually used about 1.2)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts

  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce

  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

Layer 1: Eggplant.

Heat broiler. Slice eggplant into 1/2” thick slices, and then lightly cover in oil and season with scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Place on a baking sheet- make sure to not stack the eggplant at all. Broil until the top is brown, about 8 minutes. You will probably have to do this in two batches.

Layer 2: Beef

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, diced onion, ginger, and garlic. Saute for about a few minutes, and then add in ground beef, cinnamon, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Cooking on medium heat, stirring occasionally to flip meat. Cook until ground beef is fully cooked.

Layer 3: Pine Nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Watch closely. They burn quickly! Set aside.

Assembly

Spray or coat bottom of a large baking dish with oil. Add in a single layer of eggplant, and a layer of meat (half of the total mixture), tomato sauce and a layer of pine nuts. Repeat again. Add one more layer of eggplant on top.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, add in mozzarella and bake for another 15 minutes. Broil to brown mozzarella at very end for about 3 minutes.

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