So remember how I have a bag full of eggplants from this weekend. Well I had about 9 bambino (also called Baby Bell) eggplants and about 15 small Japanese eggplants. It's a lot of eggplants to cook up. I thought of doing a spicy stir fry with the Japanese eggplants but had no idea what to do with the bambinos. I'm sure these would be perfect candidates for Eggplant Parmesan, but that's so boring and I'm not the biggest fan. So I was perusing through the Gourmet cookbook and found a Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant dip recipe and also found a recipe online for just a simple Baked Eggplant by Mario Batali. I then checked on one of my favorite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen and lo and behold she had a new post about Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant. I was even more excited to find out that it was from Gourmet's website. I also happened to have the TV on this morning and Alton Brown was on some morning talk show slicing up grilled eggplants to look like pasta. I felt the eggplant gods were in my favor this morning. =)
Disclaimer: Soomeenshee made several improvisations to the original recipe. First, this recipe called for 6 (5- to 6- inch long) eggplants. I didn't have 6 eggplants, I had 9 and most of them were smaller than what they recommended, so I figured, I could make up for the size by just using more eggplant. But this ended up crowding my skillet, so I ended up needing to use another pan and thus needing more sauce and tomatoes. I also didn't have pine nuts on hand, so I substituted carrots because it was in my fridge and who doesn't like carrots and onions together. I also substituted long-grain rice for short-grain rice because I didn't have it at home. Lastly, I added some red chili flakes. I don't know if Lebanese people use red chili flakes, but I like lots of spice, so I added it.
Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant
adapted from Gourmet magazine
6 (5- to 6-inch long) bambino (also called Baby Bell) eggplants (about 6 oz each)
1/2 cup long-grain or jasmine rice (I used short-grain b/c that's what I had on hand)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 tablespoons of finely chopped carrots (original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of pine nuts)
3 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans of diced tomatoes in juice
3/4 lb ground lamb or beef chuck (not lean)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
red pepper flakes (optional)
Slice the ends of the eggplants and hollow out each eggplant with a melon-ball cutter, working from the bottom end and leaving about 1/3 inch eggplant flesh along the interior walls. I didn't have a melon-ball cutter, so I used a small spoon and basically made 4 indentation as follows and then hollowed out the eggplant.
The original recipe didn't call for this, but I salted the insides of the eggplant. I hear that salting the eggplant can get rid of the bitterness (thanks Alton Brown!) so that's what I did.
Rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear. Drain well. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Saute the onions, carrots and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. I added my rice to this mixture and let it soak up the tasty juices. Transfer the onion and rice mixture to another bowl.
To the skillet, add stock, tomatoes, 3/4 tsp salt, a couple dashes of red chili flakes and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper and simmer, uncovered, while you quickly stuff the eggplants. Add rice, meat, allspice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper to the bowl with the onion mixture and mix well with your hands.
Stuff the eggplant with the meat mixture, being careful not to pack to the brim (the rice will expand a bit during cooking). Transfer the stuffed eggplants to the skillet with tomato sauce and simmer, covered, carefully turning once, until rice is cooked through, 50 minutes to 1 hour (cut 1 in half to test). Don't worry if the sauce seems watery, it will cook down a lot. I made the mistake of waiting for it to cook down a bit before adding the eggplants and had to add cups of water because the sauce had evaporated.