One of my favorite summer vegetables is eggplant. I was delighted open Week One’s CSA basket and find that it included these two beautiful eggplants. Eggplant can be prepared in so many ways, it’s hard to pick a favorite recipe. Here is one that I adapted to include this vegetable: Cajun Rice Dressing with Eggplant. I made it for our family–my husband and I ate the entire dish in one meal.
What is rice dressing?
I have never seen rice dressing or dirty rice dressing served outside of Louisiana or the terms used elsewhere. Here in southern Louisiana, especially the French speaking and Cajun areas of the state, rice is a staple food. Hardly a day goes by without rice on the menu in some fashion. Hence, there is lots of leftover rice and this recipe is one way to utilize this rice.
Rice dressing is served a side dish (but we ate it all in one meal)–perhaps served along with fried chicken or pork chops. It essentially is long grain rice with ground beef and/or ground pork (sausage) and seasonings added in. Dirty rice is made with ground chicken livers and gizzards (optional) in addition to or replacing the ground beef. It’s called dirty rice because the chicken livers give the dish a dark color. It is delicious-and you probably won’t know it contains chicken livers.
Rice dressing has made its way onto the menus of some fast food chicken restaurant chains that originated in Louisiana — Popeye’s and Church’s Fried Chicken chains. Don’t know if this side dish is offered outside of the South.
Holy Trinity of Cajun Cooking
Contrary to popular belief, Cajun dishes are not always “hot.” But they are well-seasoned. The seasoning basis for many Cajun/Creole recipes is called the “Holy Trinity.” This is equal parts of chopped onions, celery and bell pepper (often with less bell peppers). This culture has strong French Catholic roots and great reverence to food and religion.
These vegetables are sauteed in some sort of oil/shortening/roux to begin the dish–jambalaya, etouffee and gumbo are examples. Other seasoning ingredients may be added–such as garlic, parsley and green onions. The equivalent seasoning combination in French cooking is called mirepoix. Many Cajun/Creole recipes begin with the “trinity” of the three vegetables and sometimes these recipes sound repetitious to me for this reason.
Cajun Rice Dressing with Eggplant
This dish is essentially rice dressing with eggplant added in. Eggplant is a mild flavored vegetable and rice is bland so this recipe can tolerate being “dressed up.” The Holy Trinity of seasonings–onions, celery and bell peppers–add flavor to the otherwise mild dish. For this recipe, I chop these vegetables finely using a food processor.
Rice dressing can be adapted to what ingredients are in the kitchen. I add garlic and a jalapeno pepper (seeded.) Sometimes I add ground pork or sausage; otherwise I prepare the dish with just ground beef. I also like to add beef bouillon and Worcestershire sauce for more flavor, salt and pepper. I don’t usually add cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce; again the recipe is flavorful, not “hot”. In this preparation, I had a red jalapeno pepper from my garden and red bell pepper giving the red color to the dish. One ingredient I never omit is the green onions. These make the dish, in my opinion.
For the eggplant, I cut it into bite size pieces-peeled or unpeeled–and boil it first before adding it to the meat and seasonings. This seems to work best for this preparation.
Also, the rice in this recipe is cooked rice–often leftover rice. The recipe has a generous amount of rice; with the meat and seasoning vegetables used as flavorings to the rice. This is served as a side dish not a main entree.
In this recipe, for convenience and ease, I brown and cook the meat first, then add the seasonings to the meat–onions, celery, peppers and garlic and cook these until tender. Drain off excess meat juices. Add the boiled eggplant and simmer. Last, add cooked rice, not raw rice, beef bouillon and season to taste. Easy on the salt since beef bouillon contains plenty of sodium. Cook and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
Cajun Rice Dressing with Eggplant
- 2 cups diced eggplant (may peel skin, if desired), about 8 oz eggplant or 1/2 large eggplant
- 4 oz ground beef
- 4 oz mild pork sausage
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 large onion)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper (about 1/3 pepper)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups cooked long grain rice, (1 cup dry rice, 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt)
- 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup hot water (may not use entire amount)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 4 green onions, sliced with parts of green tops
Method and Steps
- If you don’t have leftover rice, first cook the rice. Place 1 cup long grain rice in 2 cups water with 1/2 tsp salt in small pot. Cover tightly with lid. Place on stove, bring to a boil (watch carefully or the rice will over boil). Immediately turn stove to simmer and let the rice steam for 30 minutes until fluffy. Remove from heat.
- While the rice is cooking, boil the eggplant. Dice 1/2 large eggplant-about 2 cups-in thumb size pieces. You may peel the eggplant first; this makes a smoother dish but it is not necessary. Add diced eggplant to water in a saucepan and boil 10 minutes until tender. Remove from heat, drain and reserve.
- In large skillet, brown the ground beef and sausage about 10 minutes until cooked. Drain excess juices off the meat.
- Add the finely chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic to the meat. Stir and cook 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and vegetables are cooked.
- Add the drained, cooked eggplant, simmer and occasionally stir 5 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of the beef bouillon dissolved in water, Worcestershire sauce, salt (optional) and black pepper. Stir well. If the mixture is too dry, add additional beef bouillon. Simmer uncovered about 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
- Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle green onions around.
Eggplant is very tasty when prepared like this. Watch out–you may eat the entire dish too!
What is CSA? This stands for Community Supported Agriculture. I’m participating in this program through my employer. In this program, our employer partners with a local farmer to bring fresh produce to the participants throughout the fall. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruits each week!