Sometimes, when I get a really bad case of chef’s block, I’ve been known to wander aimlessly through the supermarket aisles until inspiration finally jumps up and grabs me. Other times, I’ll have walked into the store with a perfectly good recipe planned out, only to change my mind when an ingredient catches my eye.
Take this recipe for stuffed eggplant, for example.
It all started when a bag of cute little baby eggplants practically jumped into my basket as I walked into the greengrocer’s one evening (other people get followed home by stray animals… me, I get followed home by fresh produce instead. The Boy has gotten used to having me sidle over to him in the middle of the supermarket with big puppy dog eyes and begging “Lookit! It’s a celery root! Isn’t it the cutest? Can we take it home? Pleeeeease?”)
It seemed like a shame not to show off the adorable little plump shape of these mini-eggplants, so it was pretty much a given that I’d have to go with stuffed eggplant. Add a pack of ground lamb sitting in the fridge, some mint from the garden that ought to get used before the frost and a handful of leftover pine nuts from last month’s pine nut tart, and there you have it… stuffed baby eggplant with a Middle Eastern sort of filling.
Not bad for a seat-of-the-pants dinner, don’t you think?
If you end up with any leftover filling (or if you just can’t be bothered with stuffing eggplants in the first place), you can also spoon it onto couscous, pasta or rice instead. It’s not as pretty, but it’s still awfully tasty.
- 4 baby eggplants, about 3-4" long each
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 lb lean ground lamb
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Pinch hot pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ¼ chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a grapefruit spoon, gently scoop out pulp from eggplant halves, leaving ½" thick shells. Roughly chop the scooped-out pulp and set aside. Sprinkle inside surfaces of eggplant shells with salt, and place face down on a paper towel to drain for 15-30 minutes.
- Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper, and continue sauteeing until onion is golden and peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ground lamb and chopped eggplant, and cook until lamb is browned and eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon and red pepper flakes, stirring until just warmed through.
- Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and lots of black pepper, then stir in the tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh mint.
- Pat the shells dry with paper towels, removing any excess salt remaining on the surface. Brush with remaining 1 tbsp oil and arrange in a baking dish, cut side up. Divide the lamb mixture among the eggplant shells, mounding the filling slightly, the top with crumbled feta cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the eggplant shells are tender and filling is bubbling and golden.