Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stuffed Eggplant

Yesterday was Independence Day. We had planned to grill chicken, but a line of thunderstorms descended upon us mid-afternoon and at the point that a decision about dinner had to be made, the rain had not let up. I was uncharacteristically lacking inspiration until I remembered a stuffed eggplant published years ago in the Wine Spectator. After looking at a variety of recipe online and unable to find the original, I put together my own version.

Stuffed Eggplant

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (plus a sprinkling to salt the eggplant shells)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (divided)
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Split the eggplants lengthwise and scoop out the middle, leaving enough around the edges so that the eggplants will hold their shape when baked (1/2 - 3/4 inches).
  3. Sprinkle the shells with salt and put them cut side down to drain.
  4. Roughly chop the eggplant cut from the middle.
  5. In a large heavy skillet, brown the lamb over medium heat, breaking it up with a spoon.
  6. Transfer the browned lamb to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
  7. Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, then add the onion and saute it over medium heat for about 5 minutes until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and saute for 2-3 more minutes.
  8. Add the chopped eggplant to the skillet and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes until thoroughly wilted. Add the lamb back to the skillet along with the tomato paste, spices and wine. Stir to combine, cook for about 5 minutes, then remove the skillet from the heat.
  9. Cool the mixture for 5-10 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, herbs, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the breadcrumbs and the pine nuts.
  10. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  11. Wipe the excess from the eggplant shells, then fill them with the lamb mixture.
  12. Place the filled shells on a baking sheet. Top them with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 minutes

B, my charming 12-year old, came to the table openly skeptical, but after being assured that he could cook a frozen pizza if he didn't like it (pleasant birthday dinner being the most important thing at that point!), he dug in and loved it. Big hit and really not that much work since everyone helped out. B browned the meat and grated the cheese, I chopped and seasoned, and W sauteed vegetables and tidied up behind the rest of us.

Not your typical 4th of July fare, but it worked.

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