Mediterranean Eggplant Skillet Pie

I’m always on the lookout for something new to do with potatoes.  When word of this crunchy hash brown pie crust reached my ears, the idea buzzed around my head like too many cups of coffee for weeks. You see, we take our potatoes very seriously around here. Such a perfectly potato-y crust surely deserves only the finest filling. And I wanted something that would take the humble hash brown concept and jazz it up–move it out of breakfast-at-the-diner territory and give it a sense of belonging on your dinner plate. When our farm share delivered eggplant and tomatoes to our pantry last week, the final inspiration came. This hash brown crust was going to Morocco.

Eggplant and tomatoes are scented with paprika and cumin, and stewed until meltingly tender.  The eggplant filling is set off by a crisp potato crust and topped off with whole wheat breadcrumbs and grated soy mozzarella. It’s hearty, main-dish worthy, and the potato crust really brings the whole thing together.  This is my kind of fusion cuisine.

Note that this crust is naturally gluten-free, so the recipe could be easily adapted to accommodate gluten sensitivities. Use gluten-free bread crumbs (store-bought or homemade from gluten-free bread), or just omit the topping.

Mediterranean Eggplant Pie in Hash Brown Crust

Note: Prepare the hash brown crust (recipe below) first. You can make the eggplant filling while the crust pre-bakes in the oven.

2 small eggplants (or 1 large), cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 hash brown potato crust, pre-baked, recipe below
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or use gluten-free bread crumbs for a GF recipe)
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella, grated

1. Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry the onions with the bay leaf for 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Add the eggplant and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, paprika, cumin, and ginger. Cook for 3 minutes. Add chickpeas, pepper, sugar, and salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until mixture is thickened and liquid has evaporated. Stir in the chopped parsley.
3. Spoon eggplant mixture into the prepared hash brown pie crust. Top with bread crumbs and soy mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot and fresh. The crust will be less crisp on the second day, but the pie is still quite enjoyable.

Hash Brown Potato Pie Crust

5 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1 tbsp canola oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grate the potatoes in a food processor. Place grated potatoes in a bowl of cold water, and swish them around in it. Let potatoes soak for 10 minutes.  Drain them in a colander, then spread them out on a clean dish towel and pat them dry. Put them in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper.
2. Heat oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Spread the oil around to coat the sides and bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, spread the grated potato evenly over the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, then cover the skillet, and let the potatoes steam for 5 minutes. They will be translucent on top and beginning to brown on the bottom. Remove from heat.
3. With a spoon, spread and press the potato gratings around the skillet and up the sides, so that they form an even coating. Place in the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown all over and very crisp.

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