Monday, August 30, 2010

Rice and Eggplant Timbale with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin,
M. Evans and Company, Inc., 2005.

This is a delicious vegetarian recipe from Sicily. As it is a bit labor-intensive,
I'm dividing the instructions into 3 sections for convenience. There are also
a couple of shortcuts in the "Notes" which follow.

I. The Tomato and Basil Sauce


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
7 - 8 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan; cook garlic over medium
heat until it begins to turn golden. Add tomatoes and cook for
about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce begins to
thicken. Add basil and salt and simmer for 1 -2 more minutes
stirring to thoroughly mix basil into sauce. Remove from heat
and set aside until needed.

II. Prepare the Rice

1 cup arborio rice
1/2 - 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups vegetable broth, heated to boiling

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan; add the onion and
cook over medium heat until it's translucent. Stir in rice and cook
for about 1 minute,stirring to make certain each grain is coated
with the oil/butter mixture. Add one cup of boiling stock and stir
continuously until it is absorbed by the rice (approximately 10
minutes); repeat with second cup of boiling stock, and again with
third cup. Rice should be tender and thoroughly cooked by this
time (approximately 30 - 35 minutes). Remove from heat and set
aside until needed.

III. Preparing the Eggplant and the Final Dish

1 large eggplant
Salt as needed
2 - 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated pecorino cheese

Cut ends from eggplant and slice into 10 - 12 1/4 inch
thick disks; sprinkle well with salt and place in a colander
for one hour to remove bitter juices. Wash thoroughly to
remove salt and juices and pat dry. Heat oil in frying pan
and cook eggplant until disks are lightly golden on each
side (adding more oil if needed). Drain on paper towels.

In a baking dish, arrange a layer of eggplant; spoon a layer
of prepared rice, a layer of tomato-basil sauce, and sprinkle
on a layer of the grated cheese. Repeat., ending with a layer
of cheese on top. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for
25 - 30 minutes until the top is golden and the sauce bubbling.
Serves four.


1. I suspect one could use a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
rather than preparing them by hand; I'd recommend Muir Glen
fire-roasted diced Tomatoes, but I suspect anything similar will
work. The amount of basil will probably have to be worked out
to suit individual tastes by trial and error; the actual recipe just
called for "a handful." I actually made this sauce a day ahead;
I think the flavors melded better than they might have otherwise
by spending the night together in the refrigerator.

2. In preparing the rice, any sort of broth will do, of course. What's
especially important is that the stirring be continued throughout,
stopping only for one minute or so at a time during the process.

3. I used what has become my favorite type of eggplant, the
graffiti aubergine, but the regular type will work just as well.

4. I happened to have a 7" x 7" x 3" baking dish that worked perfectly
for this recipe, providing 3 layers. If a larger dish is used, probably
the available ingredients will make no more than 2 layers, and the
baking time may need to be shortened a bit in consequence.

5. This dish holds over very well in the refrigerator for a couple of

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