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Baked Stuffed Eggplant

Jun 18, 2010

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There are many variations of this popular gluten-free and vegan dish from countries all over the Mediterranean region but most of them start by deep-frying the eggplants in an astonishing amount of olive oil. Eggplants are like sponges and soak up most of that oil. To make the dish much lighter, I blanch the eggplants instead in salted water before stuffing and baking them. The resulting dish is still full of flavor but uses much less oil and so it is even healthier. Try to find small, long (about 5 or 6 inches) purple eggplants (not the globe variety) with the stems attached if possible. The stems make great “handles” and give a more natural look to the eggplants when served.

Eggplants are native to India and southeast Asia; they eventually found their way to the West via Arab trade routes during the Middle Ages. Eggplants are members of the nightshade family, a group that also includes tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers. The name “eggplant” refers to the fact that in the 18th Century, the shape of the variety grown in the United States was primarily yellow or white and resembled goose or hen eggs. Eggplants are a good source of folic acid and potassium as well as an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Serve this as a side dish with rice or with a protein of your choice and a green salad or for a well balanced and delicious meal. Any leftovers will be even better the next day.
Enjoy!

Serves 6
Preparation time: 90 minutes

INGREDIENTS

6 purple eggplants (Italian or Japanese variety) – long and narrow, with stems if possible
1 lemon, quartered
2 medium onions, sliced in half lengthwise and then into long thin strips
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thickly
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 ½ tablespoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 can (14 ½ oz) diced tomatoes, drained; liquid reserved
1 ½ teaspoons pomegranate molasses* (I prefer the Cortas brand from Lebanon)

DIRECTIONS:

1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2 Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon of salt, half of the juice and the quarters of one lemon (this will keep the eggplants from discoloring too much). Reserve the other half of the lemon juice.

3 When the water boils, remove alternate strips with a vegetable peeler at about 1” intervals to make the eggplants look striped and trim off the bottom ends, keeping the stems attached. Make a deep slit in each starting from about an inch from the top and going the length of the eggplant to about an inch from the end; be careful not to go all the way through the skin on the opposite side. Rub each of the eggplants with the reserved lemon juice.

4 Boil the eggplants in the salted water for about 6 minutes, covered.

5 Drain the cooked eggplants in a colander, covered with a plate and weighted down with a heavy can (the diced tomatoes can will do) to press out as much of the water as possible.

6 Heat the grape seed oil in a skillet, sauté the onions over medium-high heat seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt, both peppers and the allspice. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook until the onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes.

7 Add the garlic and cook for two more minutes. Add the parsley, drained tomatoes and the pomegranate molasses. Taste for seasoning and let the mixture cool.

8 In the bottom of a large oven-proof casserole drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the reserved tomato liquid.

9 When the eggplants have cooled, rub them all over with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the insides of the eggplants with salt.

10 Carefully open the slit with your fingers and stuff the eggplants generously with the cooled vegetable mixture. The stems make great handles while working with the eggplants.

11 Bake the stuffed eggplants for 45 minutes. Let cool. This dish is best served at room temperature and is even better the next day.

*Pomegranate molasses (a mixture of pomegranate juice and lemon juice) is available at specialty grocery stores and online.

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  • Arpi Hicks

    I tried lentils and brown rice with caramelized leeks. It is just wonderful.Thank you for sharing the recipe with everybody.




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