Eggplant-Meatball Casserole (Fırında Köfteli Patlıcan)

This delicious eggplant and meatball recipe was highly inspired by another recipe I found at one of Turkey's most popular and successful food blogs: portakal ağacı. In her blog Hatice, tells that she got the recipe from an aunt (in Turkey you call all the elderly ladies "aunt X or Y" for respect regardless of your blood relation to them) and that it's called "Antep kebap" (Antep Kebabı). I liked the idea of having meatballs and eggplant--my favorite vegetable--but I didn't follow the recipe strictly. I think this is the good side of casserole dishes; they give you room for flexibility. In the end it turned out to be a light and tasty recipe.

I particularly like meatball casserole dishes, because (1) they are really easy to make and (2) in the end they are delicious. I usually make meatballs from 2 lb of ground lamb and beef. Later I freeze meatballs and use them whenever I need them. As you can imagine, when you have already made frozen meatballs, making any kind of meatball casserole dish takes almost no time.

2-3 eggplants, peeled in stripes and cut in 1 inch rounds
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 or 1/2 banana pepper for each meatball
1 big onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil

for meatball (I used half of the meatballs from this batch for the recipe; the other half went straight to the freezer)1 lb ground meat
1-2 slice of stale bread, processed in a food processor or grated
1 eggs
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1/2 parsley, finely chopped
(the original recipe didn't ask for cumin, oregano leaves, onion, and garlic for the meatball part)

-Mix well all the ingredients for meatball in a bowl and make round , half inch thick meatballs.
-Peel the eggplants in stripes and cut them in rounds. Place the rounds in a casserole.
-Place one meatball on each eggplant round.
-Scatter chopped onion and garlic on meatballs.
-Underneath onion and garlic, you'll still see your small eggplant and meatball towers; put one slice of tomato and one or half banana pepper (or any pepper you want) on each eggplant+meatball tower.
-Salt to your taste and pour 1/4 cup of alive oil on top.
-Cover tight with aluminum foil and bake for an hour at a preheated oven at 450F. After an hour uncover, and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

I served eggplant and meatball casserole with bulgur pilaf and yogurt.

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