If you’re looking for a hearty, satisfying meatless dish, Israeli Couscous, Eggplant and Tomato Gratin should be next on your “to make” list. I made this for dinner for my favorite vegetarian friend, and even I had seconds! Israeli couscous is a great little grain — it’s more like a pasta than a couscous actually. The grains are larger than regular couscous and have a nice chew to them when cooked al dente — and make sure you do. The layering and cheese going on here, plus the basil topping made this taste almost like a lasagna!
Serve with a salad and bread.
- I used crushed San Marzano tomatoes but you could substitute your favorite canned tomato sauce
- Any eggplant will do — use your favorite type or whatever looks best at the grocery/market
- See tip below for cooking the Israeli couscous
Israeli Couscous, Eggplant and Tomato Gratin
- 1 ½ pounds eggplant (2 medium globe eggplants or 4 to 6 smaller or Japanese eggplants), sliced into rounds, about 1/3 inch thick
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil (plus additional for oiling the foil and baking dish)
- 2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (see below). You can also use regular couscous or any other cooked grain
- 2 cups fresh tomato sauce or marinara sauce made from canned tomatoes
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)
- Torn or slivered basil leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat foil generously with olive oil. Toss eggplant slices with salt to taste and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Line baking sheet with the slices in a single layer (you may need 2 baking sheets, or do this in batches). Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes. Eggplant will look dry on surface but should be soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and, wearing oven mitts, carefully fold the foil up in half over the eggplant and crimp edges to create a sealed packet. Allow eggplant to steam inside the packet for another 15 minutes (you can cook couscous during this time). Turn oven down to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish with olive oil. Place cooked Israeli couscous in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Spoon into baking dish in an even layer.
Remove eggplant slices from foil packet (they should be thoroughly tender), and layer on top of couscous, overlapping slices slightly. Cover with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place in oven and bake 30 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with torn or slivered basil leaves just before serving.
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add 1 cup Israeli couscous. Toast the couscous, shaking the pan or stirring often, until it colors very lightly and smells aromatic and toasty, a bit like popcorn. Immediately add 2 quarts water and salt to taste (be generous, as if you are cooking pasta) and boil 10 minutes, until the couscous is al dente; it should not be mushy and there should still be plenty of water in the pot. Drain through a strainer and rinse with cold water. Tap the strainer against the sink to drain well, then return the couscous to the pot, cover the pot with a kitchen towel, and return the lid. Let sit for 10 minutes. Measure out 2 cups and proceed with recipe.