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Butternut & Eggplant Casserole

This recipe was something I created using a combination of Mediterranean and Mexican vegetables and represents the influences of multicultural living. This synthesis of New World food, like rich yellow butternut squash or pumpkin from the Americas, chili pepper and the goat cheese and eggplant from Greece are a wonderful combination. A dish our family and friends always enjoy.

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Ingredients:

1 medium size butternut squash
2-3 balls of mozzarella cheese
2-3 medium size eggplants
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 sweet red and yellow peppers
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 large onion
Salt
1 clove garlic
Oregano
½ cup olive oil
4 cups homemade spicy tomato sauce

For the tomato sauce
4 cups of chopped canned tomatoes in their juice
1 tbsp tomato pasted
½ cup red wine
2 minced cloves of garlic
cup of olive oil
1 handful of fresh basil leaves
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes or a small fresh chili pepper

Procedure:

  • Cut eggplants (aubergines) lengthwise and salt them. Put them in a colander with a weight on top for 30 minutes, so they sweat and release their bitter juices. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Thinly slice the onion
  • Gratethe mozzarella and crumble the feta
  • Peel & cut butternut squash into thin rounds
  • Cut the red and yellow peppers into strips

Preheat oven to 350°F (180{C}{C}{C}°C)

1. Sauté the squash in a bit of olive oil until soft enough for a fork to pierce them. Set aside.

2. Sauté the peppers in a large saucepan with the sliced onion and garlic in olive oil and a bit of salt until they take on color and are limp and cooked.

3. Add 3 cups of the homemade tomato sauce to the peppers, stir and cook for 10 minutes more. Set aside.

4. Set aside 1 cup of sauce to use later.

*(Of course you can use a fine quality ready-made tomato-basil sauce without the addition of chilies for the faint of heart)

5. Now pre-heat a non-stick skillet and spray slightly with olive oil and begin to sauté the eggplant. They will sort of char; this is what you want to happen, and they will begin to soften. Remove when they are ready.

6. In a rectangular Pyrex glass or French ceramic dish (small roasting pan size) spread a ladle full of reserved simple tomato sauce across the bottom. Place a layer of squash, sprinkle some mozzarella, oregano and fresh ground black pepper across the top.

7. Next a layer of eggplant and on top of that spread across a layer of the spicy tomato sauce with the peppers…again a layer of butternut, followed by cheese, followed by eggplant, ending with a layer of tomato sauce with peppers. Sprinkle this with breadcrumbs, and oregano and ground pepper. Bake covered in foil for 35 minutes.

8. Remove foil and sprinkle the feta cheese across the top and bake for 35-40 minutes more or less, until you see that the bubbling juices have reduced sufficiently. Total cooking time approximately 1 hour 15 minutes more or less.

For the spicy tomato sauce

1. In a blender place 3 cups of the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped garlic, red wine, basil leaves, olive oil, salt, sugar, chili flakes and puree.

2. Place the mixture in a sauce pan and stir in the remaining cup of canned chopped tomatoes plus a dash more of olive oil.

3. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer partially covered  for 20 minutes or until the sauce reduces and is creamy in consistency. Taste for salt and if you desire a more intense flavor you may add a dash more chili flakes.

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