1.26.2011

Lebanese-Style Eggplant, and Mexican-Style Leftovers

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This is the second time I've made this recipe. And I made one mistake. I didn't check my previous posting before starting. Otherwise I would have remembered that you get a lot of stuffing here. Much more than you'd think. And definitely more than what the recipe says. I ended up stuffing 15 baby eggplants, two squashes, and the next day (after another trip to the store), three chiles and two more squashes. All this with a pound of meat.

The recipe is fun to make, and although I had planned to, I didn't really make any changes this time around, besides substituting shallots for onions and increasing the herbs and spices. However, it did taste better than what I recall. The pine nuts, which I was debating to exclude after a couple of unsuccessful tries of finding some without a trip to Whole Foods, really added a nice touch. Sometimes, you just have to give in, and spend an arm and a leg at Whole Foods. I don't understand who can afford to shop there on a regular basis. When I leave their stores, I always feel swindled. But don't skip the pine nuts.

The best part was I got to experiment with the leftover meat the next evening by stuffing some Anaheim chiles, and Mexincan squash and simmering them in my roasted tomatillo sauce, which I had prepared a large batch of a week ago.
I really enjoyed the leftover tomatillo version, and will need to play with the spices to bring out some different flavors. Below is the original recipe.
Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant
from Gourmet

6 (5- to 6-inch long) bambino (also called Baby Bell) eggplants (about 6 oz each)  
1/2 cup long-grain or jasmine rice  
1/4 cup olive oil  
3 tablespoons pine nuts  
1 large onion, finely chopped  
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped  
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth  
1 (14 1/2-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice  
3/4 lb ground lamb or beef chuck (not lean)  
1 teaspoon ground allspice  
1/2 lemon  
3 tablespoons chopped flat-lef parsley
 
1) Hollow out each eggplant with a melon-ball cutter, working from bottom end and leaving about 1/3 inch eggplant flesh along interior walls.
2) Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water until water runs clear. Drain well.
3) Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry pine nuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. 
4) Sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup onion mixture to bowl with pine nuts. Add stock, tomatoes, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper to skillet and simmer, uncovered, while stuffing eggplant.
5) Add rice, meat, allspice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to bowl with onion mixture and mix well with your hands.
6) Stuff eggplant with meat mixture, being careful not to pack tightly (rice will expand during cooking). Transfer stuffed eggplants to 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).
7) If sauce is watery, transfer eggplant to a plate and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes, then adjust seasoning if necessary. Return stuffed eggplant to sauce. Squeeze lemon over dish and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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