A few nights ago, the first real cold front of the season blew in. It’s officially bundle-up-in-blankets, eat-hot-soup, read-by-the-fireplace weather. Or, if you’re a college student, it’s arrive-at-class-frozen-because-you-have-to-bike-a-mile-to-class, eat-hot-ramen, why-didn’t-we-rent-an-apartment-with-a-fireplace weather. Hrmph.
For some reason or another, I’ve never been very good at making the transition from warm weather to cold weather. My mom used to have to beg me to put on a coat, and even last year I refused to buy anything bulkier than a thin peacoat, even through snow and cold fronts that lasted through March. I hate lumpy, uncomfortable clothing; I hate wind and rain; I hate not being able spend time outside. Eventually I get used to the weather and start looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for a while I dig my heels in and refuse to let go of summer… despite the fact that it’s November.
So when I found this recipe, it immediately appealed to me even before I realized that the main ingredients were definitely not in season (I try really, really hard to eat seasonal food–it’s cheaper, more responsible, and just tastes better). But I decided to make it anyway as a final goodbye to delicious summer produce. Except for the sprinkling of parmesan on top, it’s vegan, but don’t let that freak you out. It’s also warm, creamy, and flavorful. The spiciness of Preston’s spaghetti sauce (we always keep a batch in the freezer) complements the buttery mildness of the navy beans, and the zucchinis remain slightly crunchy even after baking. It is my last summer dish, a farewell to swimming and tomatoes and picnics.
I’m not happy about this 4 1/2 month gap between me and sunny, warm climates. But as I selected my zukes and eggplant from the produce aisle, I also decided to pick up one butternut squash with a creamy, slightly sweet soup in mind. Maybe I can get used to winter after all….
Layered Zucchini and Eggplant Casserole, adapted from Oh She Glows. Serves 6.
2 medium eggplants
1.5 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups leftover homemade chili OR pasta sauce
One 15-ounce can navy (great northern) beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup spinach
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2-3/4 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
parmesan cheese or vegan parmesan cheese… I used the real stuff because cheese is cheese and it is made by cows, not vegans.
Preheat oven to 450F. Peel the eggplants and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Lay on a lined baking sheet and pre-cook eggplant only for about 15 minutes, or until shrivelled. Remove from oven and cool. While the eggplant is cooking, slice the zucchini and set aside. Now prepare your bean filling, by processing the drained beans, herbs, salt, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Gather the eggplant, zucchini, sauce, and bean filling and get ready to layer your casserole.
Preheat oven to 425. Grease a mid-sized rectangular casserole dish with oil. Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the dish as shown below. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant slices over the sauce. Spread 1/2 of the bean filling over the eggplant, and put half of the zucchini on top. Add a layer of the sauce. Repeat eggplant, bean filling, zucchini, and sauce. Place the final layer of eggplant over the top and pour the remaining sauce evenly over top, spreading with a spoon. Top with grated parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 40 minutes at 425F. Once zucchini is cooked remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
P.S. Austinites! Check out this video of Tolly Mosely for Austin Unscripted. Somehow it will make you love this city even more, and possibly even encourage you to leave your apartment and face the cold to go wrap your hands around a warm cup of coffee from your favorite Austin coffee shop. Austin is the best.