Baked Eggplant (Zapekaný Baklažán)

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Few days ago I decided to make a vegetarian dish for dinner. One big issue with traditional Slovak cooking is that it simply isn’t too keen on vegetarian dishes. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. When you visit Slovakia, you’ll find that many dishes advertised as meatless contain bacon (such as bryndzové halušky). Other dishes may be free of meat, but are not exactly healthy. This includes the various fried cheeses and fried vegetables. Probably the only truly vegetarian Slovak dish I am familiar with is lečo, a stew of tomatoes, peppers, and egg (Note, the recipe the link points to was submitted by a reader and includes meat. In my family we made this dish meatless.)

But one dish I remember people prepare is baked eggplant, zapekaný baklažán. Eggplant is a relative new comer to Slovak cooking, but it’s quite frequently found in modern recipes. There are several ways of preparing it. In making this recipe, I followed a recipe from mimibazar. This is an extremely easy and fast recipe. You can get everything ready in about 15 minutes, and have dinner ready an hour later.

Ingredients: 2 eggplants, 4 or 5 tomatoes, 3 cloves garlic, Brie/Camembert soft cheese, sliced mushrooms, grated hard cheese
Prep Time: 15 minutes plus 50 minutes for baking

ingredients for baked eggplant sliced eggplant
Start by washing the eggplant (baklažán) and slicing it into slices about half inch thick. Sprinkle lemon juice and salt all over. This supposedly helps take some of the bitter taste of eggplant away, however, according to Wikipedia, this is no longer necessary with the modern varieties. Let sit for few minutes.

baking pan dusted with breadcrumbs sliced tomatoes
In the meantime, lightly grease a baking pan with oil and cover with bread crumbs. These will help absorb some of the moisture released during baking. Slice the remaining “vegetables” (zelenina). Preheat your oven to 375F.

layers for baked eggplant
Place half of the eggplant on bottom, follow by another layer of half the tomatoes, and then all of garlic. Finally add all of the soft cheese.

Then make another layer of eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Stick uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes.

baked vegetarian eggplant dish
Take out once the vegetables soften. Top with grated cheese (I used Monterey Jack). Stick back in the oven for additional 10 minutes or so until the cheese browns. I increased the oven temperature to 400F for this step.

And that’s it. Quite simple. Serve with hrianka. This dish looks very nice, although I am not yet fully sold on the taste. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve eaten an eggplant before this week. It’s definitely quite interesting, especially with the Brie cheese. Bit of an acquired taste, I suppose, perhaps the way some folks don’t like the lettuce soup (it is one of my favorites!). Anyway, give it a try and let me know what you think.