The walnuts in this gratin offer a crunchy contrast to the roasted eggplant, zucchini and cheesy rice mixture, while the splash of half-and-half adds creamy richness. The brown rice mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated. When ready to prepare, bring to room temperature, spoon into the baking dish, and proceed as directed at the end of step 5.
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (1 cup)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ounces French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
How to Make It
Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine eggplant, zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl; toss to combine. Place eggplant mixture evenly on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Place vegetables in a large bowl.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 12 minutes or until tender. Add onion mixture to eggplant mixture. Add cooked rice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup cheese, and the next 3 ingredients (through eggs), and stir well to combine. Spoon rice mixture into an 11 x 7inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil, and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.
Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 cup. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook for 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, walnuts, and parsley.
Remove foil from rice mixture. Top evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and topping is browned.
Wine Match: Pick a smooth, midweight red like Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne, Piedmont, Italy, 2009 ($16). With its vibrant fruit and acidity, this soft-tannin wine stands up to the rich cheese without overpowering the tender veggies. --Scott Jones
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I'm very pleased with this recipe. The instructions are very clear, the cooking times were spot on, and the result was very tasty. Thanks to other reviewers suggestions, I did a parm/mozz blend, added yellow squash, mushroom, fresh thyme and basil, panko bread crumbs, and much more seasoning with salt and pepper throughout. IMO, the herbs are a must. I didn't love the topping; I thought it overpowered the veggies. Next time I'll cut that back greatly, I may even try using just the walnuts and cheese. I also agree that this recipe is quite labor intensive; I made a double batch for a pot luck and it was over 1 1/2 hours of solid work. That said, I will make this again; I can see it being perfect as a make-ahead dish, or to freeze in small batches for homemade frozen dinners. I would also be curious to change the flavors with different vegs, seasonings and cheeses.
The picture doesn't look anything like the recipe, which calls for 1 inch cubes of vegetables and has a higher vegetable to rice ratio than pictured. (where did that picture come from, anyway?) I thought it needed more salt, but I see another reviewer thought it needed less. Next time I would skip sauteing the fresh made bread crumbs, and just use dry breadcrumbs from the cupboard and put the topping on at the beginning and bake it uncovered. It should brown/toast in the oven and provide enough of a moisture block to keep the veggies from drying out. This simplifies an already multi-step recipe. If you bother to toast the breadcrumbs, might as well toast the walnuts at the same time.
I read all the reviews in advance. Added mushrooms to the roasting veggies. Did add milk to make 1/2 cup but will add more to make it creamier next time. Slightly decreased the parmesan and added a handful (1/2 cup?) lowfat mozz. I know that some reviewers prefer that we rate recipe on how it is written, but as a foodie, just looking at a recipe often drives adjustments the first time. And if I see a low rating, I often will bypass a recipe that just might be good. I appreciate the suggestions from others...
Taking tips from other reviewers, I changed this a lot! But hear me out because it was enjoyed by 4 of 4. I used 75% white rice, 25% barley (thawed freezer finds), 1 cup milk, and added 1 tablespoon dried basil to the rice mixture. I also used 1 1/2 cups panko and added red pepper flakes to the topping. It was beautiful and tasty and I'd serve it to company.