Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo and Crispy Eggplant

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BREAKING NEWS! A new study confirms that a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease!

How many times have we heard that headline? The New York Times believes that once more can’t hurt. They recently featured a new study that advocates a Mediterranean diet. Scientists in Spain tested it against a low-fat diet and the results were so compelling that it would have been immoral continue the experiment.

Part of the reason why the diet was so effective is that it’s easy to follow. Participants were instructed to rely on a diet heavy in beans, nuts, fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. YUM!

My Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo and Eggplant is an homage to the beautifully complex parings of the Mediterranean palette.

Orzo is tossed with olives, cucumbers and tomato, seasoned with mint and lemon, and spiced with hot pepper flakes. Everything is brought together by a small dredge of olive oil.

It’s accompanied by eggplant, which is breaded and roasted (not fried). When the eggplant collapses into mush as it cooks, the breading creates a pocket to hold it all together and gives you a nice crunch.

The dish is dynamic in flavors and textures. It’s light, sharp, round and delicate.

Need more veggies? I usually make a side of sautéed swiss chard and onions. It goes really well with the eggplant.

I am no scientist, so I can’t tell you that this will lower your risk of heart disease. But I can tell you that it is delicious.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo and Eggplant

1 Eggplant
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup bread crumbs, seasoned
1/3 lb Orzo
⅓ cup tomato, diced
½ cucumber, diced
5 Kalamata Olives, chopped
20 mint leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Olive Oil
Crushed Red Pepper
Pecorino Romano
S&P

1. Start by taking some of the bitterness out of the Eggplant. Slice the eggplant into ½ inch thick rounds. Place them in a colander and salt each piece.Let the salted eggplant sit for about 20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. While the eggplant sweats, prep the Orzo. Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to boil. Once it reaches a boil, add the orzo. Cook it for about 4-6 minutes (until al dente). I usually check it (by tasting it) every minute after it cooks for 4 minutes.
3. When the orzo is done, strain it into a colander. If it begins to stick together, you can mix in a little bit of olive oil to keep it moist.
4. Dice the tomato, cucumber and olives. Mince the mint leaves. Place the orzo ingredients aside.
5. Bread the rinsed eggplant and place each piece onto an ungreased cookie sheet. I usually sprinkle salt on both sides of the eggplant after I bread it.
6. Bake the eggplant until the breadcrumbs brown (about 20 minutes). Flip them halfway through.
7. While the eggplant is baking, assemble the orzo. Place the orzo into a medium-sized bowl, and drizzle it with olive oil. Mix well. Then add the lemon juice. Mix well. Add the lemon zest and salt to taste, mix well. Finally add the cucumbers, tomato, olive and mint. Taste, and adjust the salt and lemon. If it is too dry, you can add more olive oil at this point. Lastly, sprinkle very lightly with crushed red pepper if you like the heat!
8. (Optional) Lightly grate pecorino romano on top of EVERYTHING.
9. Shove a big spoonful in your mouth. You deserve it!

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One thought on “Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo and Crispy Eggplant

  1. I love your blog and this dish looks and sounds delicious! Still not sold on the fish tacos (although your recipe was compelling) but this I know I’d love. Even more so if someone cooked it for me (wink wink)

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