Ingredients:

1 large eggplant(~1 ¼ pounds), cut into 3/4-inch dice

Salt and black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

1 celery stalk, in a ¼ inch dice

1 medium onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces whole wheat orzo pasta, rinsed

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 ½ cups vegetable stock

2-3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon

4 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/3 inch dice

½ cup grated parmesan

3 medium tomatoes, diced

Directions:

1. Sprinkle your eggplant with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and bring oil to a simmer. Add the eggplant and sauté for ~8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain.

3. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

4. Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.