To be completely honest, which by now you may have deduced is my style with an undercurrent of sarcasm, this recipe is entirely based on a craving I had for several weeks in July. It being mid-summer, I was desperate for something light that still delivered the rich flavors and comfort of eggplant parmesan. I disregarded the tenants of strict seasonality and procured myself some sad grocery store eggplants to fill the void in my stomach that was shouting for creamy eggplant. Lucky for you, I’m a procrastinator when it comes to posting on my blog in a timely fashion. Now, we’re now knee deep in late summer/early fall vegetables and you can swipe up eggplants of all sizes and colors for this recipe.
Three things will get this recipe where your heart wants it to be. First, is basting the eggplant in balsamic vinegar that wouldn’t offend your nose if you tasted it on its own. Second, is getting a deep toast on the couscous to get the necessary texture and flavor. And, lastly, don’t skimp on the parmesan. With a fairly simple ingredient list, every component on its own should bring something worth tasting to the table.
The baking method for the eggplant may seem a little convoluted at first, but it will get you a supple, silky, and caramelized flavor, and that requires a little extra baking time. Everything else you need comes together easily while the eggplant bakes, and quickly tosses together in one bowl to serve.
Eggplant Parmesan Couscous
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 people
2 mid-sized eggplants, sliced ¼ inch thick
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with sea salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes to let the moisture draw out.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once you start to see droplets collecting on the eggplant, wipe the slices down with a paper towel and lay them out on the baking sheet. Drizzle the slices with 3 tbsp. of olive oil, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes on both sides. Pop the baking sheet in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. After 25 minutes, remove the eggplant from the oven and brush both sides of the eggplant slices with balsamic vinegar using a pastry brush. Pop the eggplant back in the oven for 10 more minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through.
While the eggplant is roasting, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the couscous, along with the salt, cumin, and paprika. Toast the couscous until golden brown, stirring frequently to prevent anything from burning or sticking (usually takes about 5 minutes).
Once the couscous is nice and toasty, add the water and turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed and the couscous is tender. If the couscous is still crunchy, add a little more water and cook longer. When the couscous is cooked through, remove from the heat and cover to keep warm while prepping the other ingredients.
When the eggplant is done, let it cool just enough to make it easy to handle. Chop the slices into ½ inch squares. Combine the couscous, eggplant, tomatoes, basil, lemon zest, parmesan, and 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large serving bowl. Have a taste and add more salt, fresh ground pepper, or parmesan as needed.