The toughest question to answer for a food blogger is "what's your favorite food?". I mean... we blog about food for a reason. We love all of it. BUT if you were to ask me I'd probably mention this Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole also known as Kafta Bil Sanieh in Arabic. Also known as Tapsi Betenjan in Iraq. The BEST dish ever, and let me tell you why.
What is Kafta Bil Sanieh?
This Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole is a layered casserole dish that is baked in a delicious tomato sauce. It starts off with a layer of perfectly seasoned Kafta or beef patties, followed by a layer of potatoes, eggplant, onions, peppers, and finally tomatoes. All the layers are pre-cooked and then stacked on top of each other to bake together in harmony and soak up that beautiful tomato sauce. The actual translation of "kafta bil sanieh" is kafta in a tray.
What I love most about this dish is the fact that it doesn't use any spices (aside from cumin in the Kafta) and mainly lets the vegetables shine. Baking the vegetables together gets all their flavors melting into each other and it's just pure goodness. I make this dish about once a week because it's my husbands favorite!
Adjustments for a healthier cooking method
This eggplant casserole is quite popular in the Middle East, and there's not one way of making it (although I do implore you to try mine - you won't regret it). Here are a few notes:
- The various vegetables in this casserole are traditionally individually fried rather than baked. However to keep things healthier and also much more efficient in the kitchen, I've been baking them for the longest time and I love the results!
- You can easily make this vegetarian (and I very often do) and it'll taste so good too. It makes it a lot faster because you can just skip the kafta step, and also convenient if you don't have any ground beef
- If you're not a big fan of eggplant (how shocking!) you can replace it with zucchini. I often do this if I'm making it for my sister
- You can also skip adding the potatoes, although they really are one of my favorite elements. But if you're keeping it lighter, it may be a good idea
How to serve this Mediterranean eggplant casserole
The best way to serve this is with rice. I love spooning the juices over the rice and getting a piece of everything on my plate. But you can also enjoy this with some pita bread or on its own. Its quite a filling dish because it has protein, vegetables and carbs.
If you end up making this, you absolutely have to tell me what you think! This dish is so special to me and I can't wait to see your remakes.
For more Eggplant recipes, check out:
Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole (Kafta Bil Sanieh)
For the Kafta:
- 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
For the Casserole:
- 3 Eggplants
- 3 Potatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 red pepper
- 2 to matoes
- ½ cup vegetable oil + 4 tablespoons
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses optional
- Start by preheating your oven to 400F
- To make the Kafta, mix the ground beef with the spices and shape into small circular shapes. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 18 minutes at 400F. Remove and set aside
- Peel the eggplant length ways every other stripe to create a zebra patter and chop into ½ inch circles. Mix evenly with the half cup of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and bake them on a parchment lined sheet for 40 minutes
- Peel and chop the potatoes into ½ inch circles. Mix with 2 tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon of salt and bake on a lined baking sheet for 40 minutes
- Meanwhile, slice the onion and red pepper into then strips and saute together in a skillet on medium heat using 2 tablespoons of oil for about 7 minutes until softened and caramelized
- Slice the tomato into ¼ inch circles
- When the kafta, eggplant, potato, onions and peppers are cooked through, it's time to assemble
- Using a deep 9x13 inch baking dish, assemble the first layer of Kafta, followed by potato and eggplant, placing them all on top of each other and evenly filling the dish
- Then add the layer of onions and peppers, and finally top with the tomato slices by placing them evenly around the dish
- In a bowl, mix all the tomato sauce ingredients together and pour over the dish
- Bake covered for 45 minutes and then broil uncovered for an additional 15 minutes
- Serve with rice and enjoy!
- If you don't like eggplant, you can still make this dish and replace it with zucchini instead
- To make this dish vegetarian, you can skip the Kafta