Broiled Eggplant and Chicken Casserole

I managed to make it to the farmers' market this weekend after nearly two months of not being able to go. My field work kept me away on the weekends. I was sad to learn that I had missed out on figs, but at least there were some really pretty tomatoes. I also picked up a couple small eggplants. I prefer small eggplants because they're not as seedy and not as bitter. Eggplant has never been one of my most favorite vegetables unless it's been dredged in breading and fried, however I've noticed that if I cook the hell out of it until it become nice and mushy and then I think it's delicious.

Tonight I used one of my eggplants to make a layered chicken casserole. The idea sort of came to me as I was defrosting chicken and had no plans for it. I had been having a lot of Asian flavors in my food lately, so I thought I'd go to the northern hemisphere and hit up Italy. Though this dish is seemingly light with chicken breast and vegetables, the little bit of Parmesan cheese (my favorite cheese!) adds just enough richness to make this feel like a real meal. The burnished, charred bits on the broiled eggplant add a slight smokiness as well. This would be a great date meal because it perfectly serves two.

Broiled Eggplant and Chicken Casserole

1 small eggplant (about 1/2 lb)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small chicken breasts (about 1/2 lb), diced
1/2 cup diced bell pepper, any color
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup canned petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup marinara sauce
6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. To prepare the eggplant, peel some or all of the skin. I like to peel stripes of skin so some of the flesh is exposed. Cut the eggplant into lengthwise slices about 1/4-inch thick, brush them with the olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them under the broiler to brown them on each side. Once they are done broiling, turn the heat to 375 degrees F.
2. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat, then spray it with cooking spray. Add the chicken and cook it until the chicken has started to brown, then add the bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, and some salt and pepper and cook the mixture until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes and marinara and cook about 10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
3. In a 1.5-qt baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, add half of the eggplant slices, then top them with 2 tbsp of the cheese. Once the chicken mixture is reduced, pour it on top of the eggplant slices. Arrange the last half of the eggplant on top, then top with the remaining cheese.
4. Cover the dish with foil (re-use the foil from the baking sheet), and bake it for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil so that the cheese browns and the liquid evaporates and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per serving:
Calories: 378
Fat: 16.2 g
Saturated fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 87 mg
Sodium: 556 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.5 g
Fiber: 7.2 g
Sugar: 7.2 g
Protein: 35.5 g

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