When I first dabbled with vegetarian cooking, I thought I was going to do it for my mother. The plan was that she would come and live with us and since she had a history of hypertension, I was learning to cook low-fat, low-salt dishes with lots of vegetables and minimal meat. My mother passed away last summer and although we now have a wider repertoire of vegetarian dishes, we never really went vegetarian.
Well, as I was saying on Facebook, something that I never thought would happen has happened. No, we’re not all turning vegetarian. Sam is. She loves animals so much she doesn’t want to eat them. I don’t share her views about slaughtering animals for food but I respect her opinion which she doesn’t force down our throat. So, to show my support, I promised her that I’d cook vegetarian dishes for her whenever she’s home. Note that Sam is not going vegan but vegetarian. Ovo-lacto vegetarian, to be more precise, which means eggs and dairy will be included in her diet. She’s only ditching meat and seafood.
Earlier today, I made this eggplant casserole for her. Sliced eggplants pan-fried in olive oil, layered with Béchamel sauce and shredded cheddar then baked until bubbly.
Eggplant casserole with Béchamel sauce and sharp cheddar
- 3 eggplants (I used Asian eggplants)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Cut the eggplants diagonally into half-inch slices.
- Coat the bottom of non-stick frying pan with oil.
- Pan-fry the eggplant slices in batches just until lightly browned but not soft. Set aside.
- Make the Béchamel sauce. Start by making a blonde roux. Pour in the milk in a thin stream, stirring as you pour. Cook until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a third of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cover with a third of the Béchamel sauce.
- Sprinkle with a third of the grated cheddar.
- Repeat to form two more layers.
- Bake at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned and the mixture is bubbly.
- Rest the casserole for about ten minutes before serving.