Sneak Preview: This Eggplant Dressing gets spicy with green chiles and cheese. Add in veggies and leftover cornbread for a savory side dish or a vegetarian main dish with a Southwestern taste.
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Have you seen the Heartland TV series? The young neighbor girl named Mallory often offers opinions no adults would dare speak.
For example: “What is this stuff?” as she looks at her plate. When told it was Shepherd’s Pie, she remarked, “It looks more like something the shepherd stepped in.”
This recipe doesn’t look bad, but I’ll admit cooked eggplant is the opposite of photogenic. Is there a word for that? Can somebody help me? In ultrasound, we call it “ultrasound ugly.” So, maybe we could call eggplant “food ugly.”
The unfortunate appearance of eggplant won’t keep me from eating it. On the contrary, I’m obsessed with it. Here’s proof, as seen in these recipes already published on this blog: Ratatouille Soup, Roasted Eggplant and Potatoes, and Corn and Eggplant Vegetable Medley.
If you are tired of green beans, broccoli, and carrots, why not try some eggplant? Although I call this “dressing” because it has cornbread, you could just as easily substitute rice or quinoa in place of the cornbread.
If you often have leftover cornbread, you might want to look at this recipe for Green Chile and Yellow Squash Casserole. However, if you need a recipe for cornbread, this Sweet Jalapeno Cornbread is our favorite.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- EGGPLANT: People often ask me if they need to peel eggplant. Better Homes and Gardens says, “While the skin of a small young eggplant is edible, the skin becomes bitter on larger or older eggplants and should be peeled.” I tend to peel eggplant because of the appearance, not the taste.
- ONIONS: Use white or yellow onions. Frozen chopped onions are most convenient.
- CELERY: Did you know you can freeze celery? It’s perfect to use in a recipe like this.
- RED BELL PEPPERS: Substitute yellow or orange peppers if that’s what you have. Green peppers can also be used but will give a slightly bitter edge to the flavor.
- MUSHROOMS: White button mushrooms are perfect. Portobello mushrooms are also fine but probably not worth the extra money if you go out to buy them.
- MILK: The recipe specifies low-fat milk but you can use whatever type you have on hand.
- SAGE: Poultry seasoning is the best substitute if you don’t have sage. Thyme or savory are other possibilities.
- GREEN CHILES: Chopped chiles are the easiest. These peppers give this dish a Southwestern flare.
- CORN: Can you have a Southwestern casserole without corn?? Fresh is best, but frozen is fine.
- CORNBREAD: The next time you have leftover cornbread, throw it in the freezer. It will come in handy for this recipe. Or substitute cooked rice (white or brown rice) to make eggplant rice dressing. Quinoa is another sub.
- CHEDDAR CHEESE: Buy it shredded or shred it yourself. I usually use medium Cheddar, but sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar would be good, too.
How can I cook eggplant so it doesn’t become mushy?
I’m not a fan of boiled eggplant as called for in so many eggplant recipes. I much prefer to grill it using a grill pan, so it doesn’t get mushy. In the absence of a grill pan, sauté the eggplant in a skillet brushed with olive oil.
Since I’m always looking for ways to trim calories, I’m rather sparing with the cheese. Otherwise, I would stir an additional two ounces of shredded Cheddar into the casserole just before baking.
How to make Eggplant Dressing:
Variation: Add a half pound of cooked ground beef, ground pork, or diced chicken when you adding the cornbread.
Frequently Asked Questions:
In my experience, soaking is unnecessary if you avoid buying overly large eggplant that appear to have been around too long. Soft spots, discoloration, and a dull skin are signs of old age.
Yes. Freeze the unbaked casserole without cheese on top. Double-wrap and freeze for up to a month. When you get ready to eat it, add extra time for baking. Sprinkle the cheese on top in the last 10 minutes.
Parting Thoughts: Some people think of “dressing” as a Thanksgiving dish. But try serving this side dish with brisket, ribs or grilled sausage. It is sure to become a favorite combination!
If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula
Spicy Southwestern Eggplant Dressing
- 1 small to medium eggplant - cooked and diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup onions - chopped
- ½ cup celery - chopped
- ¼ cup red pepper - chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic - chopped
- 4 ounce button or portobello mushrooms - sliced or chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 4-oz can can chopped green chilies
- 1 cup corn - fresh or frozen and thawed
- 1½ cups stale cornbread - crumbled
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 oz Cheddar cheese - shredded
- Use greased grill pan or skillet to cook peeled and sliced eggplant, flipping when browned. See picture above. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic and saute until soft. Add mushrooms and sage to the skillet and cook another 3-4 minutes.
- Sprinkle flour over the cooked veggies. Stir to distribute evenly. Add milk and continue to stir until thickened. Add cooked and chopped eggplant, green chilies, corn and cornbread crumbs, stirring gently. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook at 350˚F for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over the top during the last 10 minutes.