Wednesday 15 January 2014

Slow Cooker Baked Aubergine, Courgette, and Tomato

I am a latecomer to the aubergine (eggplant) party. It was rarely served at my house growing up, and my first few attempts to cook it went unfavourably. Unaware of just how much oil was needed, I dabbed sparingly at the vegetable in the hopes of creating a low fat dish, meaning I ended up with dry, spongelike pieces every time. Ugh.

Thankfully, I have since discovered its glory when cooked well. Whenever I go to one of the large gatherings of my in-laws, there is always one dish that I can count on to be served: aubergine slices in tomato sauce, a family favourite. So when I was leafing through our new slow cooker cookbook, this recipe caught my eye due to its similar list of ingredients. I liked the idea of adding the courgette (zucchini) as a way of making the dish slightly less heavy, and knew that anything with a parmesan breadcrumb topping had to be good.

The list of ingredients was relatively simple, though very out of season in January:

First I sliced up the aubergines for their first cooking. The recipe suggested doing this in a pan, but I find it easier to grill them (that's "broil" if you speak American). So after a good spread of oil I put them in the oven and went off to check facebook.

Unfortunately, I didn't set the timer loud enough, and one of my friends had posted this link:

So, HILARIOUS as that was, it was also too long of a clip to watch when cooking aubergines. So my first batch was a bit, er, caramelized and crispy.

But it was worth many good lines...I think the George Clooney one is my favourite.

I threw out the worst ones, but hoped the others would be ok if I just stuck them at the bottom of the slow cooker dish.  *Spoiler alert* They were.

Then on went a layer of courgettes.

Then I remembered I was supposed to be seasoning each layer.

Then some garlic went in.

Then some chopped tomatoes. I like baby plum tomatoes for pretty much everything tomato related.

Then another layer...

And so on...

And I finished with a layer of even quantities of breadcrumbs and parmesan grated in the handy, dandy food processor. I confess I also threw in a bit of oregano around the sides because it just felt like the right thing to do. The photo is a little blurry because a certain little toddler was taking regular swipes at the screen of my photo-taking device.

On went the lid.

After 4 hours on low, I lifted the lid. Every time I use the slow cooker I feel like I'm checking lab results in science class.

It smelled good and a quick poke looked positive as well, so I wrote up the results in my lab book. Then I scattered basil over the top and then served it alongside some left over roast chicken and a green salad.

There were no survivors.

Well, the kids weren't crazy about it BUT it did mean that they ate their chicken and had two servings of salad each, so I figure that was a parental win. And they did try it.

Now where are some more clips of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler...

(adapted from The Slow Cooker:A Celebration of the Slow Cooker)
2 large aubergines
olive oil for brushing
2 large courgettes, sliced
nearly a whole pack of mini plum tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
15g dry breadcrumbs
15g grated Parmesan
1 tsp or so of oregano
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Cut the aubergines into thin slices, brush with copious quantities of oil and grill/broil until soft and brown, then drain on paper towels.
Layer aubergines in the slow cooker with courgettes, tomatoes, garlic and a touch of oregano, seasoning with salt and pepper between layers
Mix breadcrumbs with cheese and sprinkle over the top. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours
Garnish top with fresh basil and serve

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