Sometimes the Accidental Locavore thinks you need to be a little sneaky about food. I saw this eggplant recipe in Food & Wine and it immediately appealed to me on three fronts: love of stuffed vegetables, something new to do with eggplants and ease of preparation. One small issue, eggplants are not my husband’s first choice—ever. So, when it looked like I was going to be alone with two house-guests for dinner… This is technically more of a topping than a stuffing and serves 4:
Stuffed Eggplant With Lamb and Pine Nuts
- 4 1-pound eggplants, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for brushing
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika (I used smoked, but not hot paprika)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons tomato sauce
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
- One 1 ½” cinnamon stick (mine was closer to 3″)
Preheat the oven to 425°. Arrange the eggplant halves in a large baking dish, cut side up. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes, until browned (mine took closer to 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, cumin and paprika together, set aside. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and half of the spice mix. Stir, cover and cook until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes.
Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until no pink remains, about 4 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Stir in the pine nuts, tomato paste, half the parsley, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the lamb mixture onto the eggplants. In the bowl with the remaining spice mix, add the water, lemon juice, remaining sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to mix and pour into the baking dish around the eggplants. Add the cinnamon stick. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes, basting twice with the pan juices, until very tender.
Plate the eggplants, discard the cinnamon stick and pour the remaining juices over the eggplants. Garnish with the parsley, serve and enjoy!
Great! My guests thought it was “very delicious” and are dying for the recipe (here it is)! Next time I’ll make a couple of tweaks. First, I’ll substitute fresh mint for the parsley. The parsley is kind of a non-entity in the dish, while mint would just add to the Middle Eastern flavor profile. The other thing to go would be the tamarind concentrate. I happened to have some, but if you didn’t you could substitute pomegranate concentrate or juice or even some cranberry juice, or nothing…You could probably pre-cook the eggplants or even grill them and add the topping later.
My Verdict II:
Made a smaller batch and used mint instead of parsley. Going forward, I would use whatever was around. This time I sprinkled the eggplants with some of the cinnamon and cumin before cooking them (like the eggplant salad). Be careful when doing small batches of this and/or using a shallow pan. The sauce cooks down quickly and you might have to add some water to the pan. For batch 2, I only cooked the eggplants for 45 minutes and think they could have come out after 35-40 minutes.
* Tamarind concentrate is used for Asian and other foods and can be found on Amazon. com.