ground lamb

Stuffed Eggplant With Lamb and Pine Nuts

by Anne Maxfield on August 27, 2012

Accidental Locavore Striped Eggplant

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

Serves 4
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
The Accidental Locavore shares a recipe for eggplants stuffed with ground lamb and pine nuts. A delicious and easy main course meal with eggplant.


  • 4 one pound eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the eggplants
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked, but not hot)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste (if you're smart you buy it in a tube)
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (feel free to substitute mint)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate*
  • 1 cinnamon stick 1 1/2 inches long


Step 1
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!

My verdict: 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.



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Accidental Locavore Stuffed SquashThis is a long-time favorite of the Accidental Locavore. When properly prepared, it’s delicious! Even when it’s a work-in-progress, it’s pretty good. A little time consuming, but if it’s raining out and you’ve got a stack of zucchini… Depending on the size of your squash, figure 1-2 per person.

For the squash:

  • 6 summer squash, or zucchini, or a mix of the two
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced, or crushed in a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon each, salt & pepper
  • 1 cup rice

 Yogurt sauce:

  • 1 quart full fat yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint, or 1 tablespoon fresh, finely sliced for garnish

Cut a small slice off the wide end of the squash. With a squash corer, or a small spoon, carefully core the squash, leaving about 1/4″ all around. Be careful not to pierce the skin. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sauté for 5 minutes. Add the ground lamb, breaking it into small pieces as you add it, along with the garlic, cinnamon, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Add the rice and mix well. Remove from heat and place in a bowl to cool.

When the mix is cool, use it to stuff the squash. The easiest way is to use your fingers, but you can do it with a small spoon. Fill the squash 3/4 full to give the rice room to expand. Set aside.

In a large pot, big enough to hold the squash, over medium heat, mix the egg, yogurt, and cornstarch. Stir continually until it comes to a boil. Do not leave it unattended or the sauce will separate! When it comes to a boil (you’re safe now), reduce the heat to low, add a clove of crushed garlic, and the squash. Cover and cook for about an hour until the rice is cooked and the squash is tender. It may need more time to fully cook the rice. Serve with the yogurt sauce and mint sprinkled on top. Enjoy!




Accidental Locavore Stuffed Grape LeavesA recipe for stuffed grape leaves? Isn’t that a little labor intensive? Why would you ever want a recipe for stuffed grape leaves when you can buy them at Whole Foods or Fairway? While the cold ones may be fine, and the Accidental Locavore is partial to the grape leaves at Murray’s, you rarely come across the meat stuffed grape leaves, usually served hot with an egg-lemon sauce. While snacking on a cold one the other day, I had the idea to make a batch of the meat stuffed ones. I used two Greek cookbooks, Sofi’s Aegean Kitchen, and The Olive and Caper, the recipes are pretty similar, and actually pretty easy, it’s like making meatballs and wrapping them up. Between the rolling of the leaves, and making the sauce, it’s probably only 45 minutes of actual work, and it’s easy. Here’s my adaptation:

Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves

  • 1 pound ground lamb (you can use a mix of lamb and beef, or just beef, but why?)
  • 1 good sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped (didn’t have any so left it out)
  • 3 tablespoons dill, finely chopped (I probably used a little more)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 16 ounce jar grape leaves in brine (you can make these yourself if you happen to have a grape vine…)

Rinse the grape leaves well in hot water and let drain. In a large bowl, mix all the other ingredients together. Line a large sauce pan (big enough to hold all the stuffed grape leaves in one layer) with grape leaves. This is a good time to use any that are small, or ripped. Place one grape leaf on your work space, shiny side down. Put a  tablespoon of the meat mixture at the bottom of the leaf (see photo).Accidental Locavore Grape Leaf Fold the left side into the middle, then fold the right side in and roll up towards the tip. Place in the pot with the tip (seam) side down. Repeat until you’re out of filling. The stuffed grape leaves should be fairly crowded in the pan. Put a plate over them to weigh them down. Add hot water to cover, and simmer over low heat, covered, for about an hour until they are cooked through.

Egg Lemon Sauce

  • 2 cups of liquid from the grape leaves
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat the 2 cups of liquid in a small sauce pan. In a measuring cup, mix the milk and cornstarch. Stir until smooth. Slowly add it to the broth, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat. Beat the eggs and lemon juice together until foamy. Slowly add it to the pan, stirring constantly. The sauce should be yellow and creamy. Taste it and add salt and/or more lemon juice to taste. Serve it over the warm grape leaves and enjoy.

Accidental Locavore Stuffed Grape Leaves With SauceMy rating: 3 1/2 stars: Didn’t have enough lemons for the sauce, so it was a little bland. Fixed that the next day. Next time, I would also add some lemon juice to the meat mixture. This recipe has milk and cornstarch in the sauce, I’m not sure how traditional that is, and might just look for a simpler version in the future.

If you end up with more leaves than stuffing, try wrapping a slice from a log of goat cheese in a leaf, and grilling it, delicious! Also, salmon with a little olive oil, dill, and lemon, wrapped in a couple of leaves and baked, grilled or steamed is lovely.




Recipe: Turkish Inspired Stuffed Cabbage

by Anne Maxfield on July 9, 2010

Accidental Locavore Stuffed CabbageEven though it’s in the 90’s here, the Accidental Locavore decided in the cool of the morning to make stuffed cabbage. It’s not hard, just a little time consuming. Par-boiling the leaves takes the most time (besides cooking them), but it’s certainly easy. Don’t let the lengthy looking directions scare you off.

  • Core the cabbage and carefully remove the leaves until they get too small and gnarly to work with.
  • Fill your biggest, flattest pan with water and put it on to boil. I added salt to the water, but don’t know how necessary it is. Force of habit.
  • Place a few of the cabbage leaves in the water. You need to cover them with water, so don’t do more than 5 at a time. Boil until just tender and pliable.
  • Repeat with the rest of the leaves. Put them on a plate, or clean dishtowel to drain and cool.

While the leaves are cooking I mixed together:

  • 1/2 pound of ground lamb (from local grass fed lambs).
  • 2 onions chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup rice (long grain)
  • 1/3 cup each dill, parsley, mint (all from my garden, saving a trip to the local supermarket), chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts (totally optional)
  • Salt, pepper, and a dash of allspice
  • Mix all these together until well combined
  • When the leaves are done, cut the spines out of the leaves. If they’re big leaves, cut them in half the long way.
  • Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling about an inch above the bottom of the base of the leaf.
  • Fold up the bottom to cover the filling.
  • Fold in the sides, and roll up, easy right?
  • Take all the leftover small pieces of cabbage, and the spines, and line the bottom of a large flat pan with them (I use the same pan as for the leaves).
  • Place the rolls in the pan so they’re resting on the seam (the end of the leaf).
  • Dot with butter, about 2 TBSP, and fill the pan with water to cover the rolls.
  • Place a large plate on top to hold them down.
  • Heat on medium heat until boiling, then turn down to a strong simmer for 30-35 minutes until tender.

I like a yogurt sauce with these, and now that I know how to work with yogurt, it’s really easy. The two things you must do are: use whole milk yogurt. Any low fat yogurt will separate. Trust me. The other thing is to add egg yolks to the yogurt. For about 1 cup of yogurt, I used 2 egg yolks. Beat them slightly to combine them, and stir into the yogurt until combined.

For the sauce:

  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of whole milk yogurt mixed with 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cloves of garlic put through a garlic press
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat slowly until warm, and the sauce is combined. You can pour over the stuffed cabbage or even warm the cabbage in the sauce. Enjoy!

A lot of people have great recipes for stuffed cabbage. What’s yours?