(Palestinian rice and eggplant casserole)
4 to 6 servings
- Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
- Eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 1
- Onion, minced -- 1
- Ground lamb or beef -- 1 pound
- Allspice -- 1 teaspoon
- Cinnamon -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Nutmeg -- big pinch
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 1
- Water or stock, well seasoned with salt -- 2 cups
- Rice, soaked 1/2 hour in water to cover -- 1 1/2 cups
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the eggplant slices on each side to lightly brown. Remove to a plate.
- Add more oil to the skillet if needed and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the ground lamb or beef, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and saute, breaking up the meat, until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and drain off excess oil.
- Grease a 3-quart heavy bottomed saucepan well with olive oil, butter, lard or shortening. Drain the rice. Lay the tomato slices to cover the bottom of the saucepan. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the rice over the tomatoes. Spoon the meat mixture over the rice. Lay the eggplant slices to cover the meat and press down well to compact all the ingredients. Add the rest of the rice and the seasoned water or stock.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then quickly reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking time, check to see if more water needs to be added.
- Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove lid and invert a serving platter over the saucepan. Turn upside-down and carefully slip the saucepan off the rice. Serve hot.
- Use cubed meat or chicken pieces instead of ground meat if you like.
- For a vegetarian version, eliminate the meat and substitute a layer of sliced potato. Or double the amount of eggplant.
- Despite greasing the pot with lard or oil, the rice sometimes sticks to the bottom of the pot. Try covering the bottom with a round of greased parchment paper to eliminate this problem.
- Garnish the finished dish with toasted almonds or pine nuts.