Stuffed Sicilian Eggplant

A few weeks ago one of our customers at the downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market came up to Chris to welcome him back to the market after the summer hiatus.  Chris was standing near the table of eggplants (globe, Asian, purple, and Sicilian).  Our customer saw the Sicilian eggplants and mentioned that they reminded her of her Sicilian grandmother’s cooking and in particular, stuffed Sicilian eggplant.

It’s wonderful how seeing a simple ingredient can bring to mind cherished memories of past times with family and friends.  This is our version of stuffed Sicilian eggplant, stuffed with ground lamb, chopped eggplant (the cored out portions), red onion, turmeric, and our organic oregano, Italian basil, and mint. This can also be made as a vegan or vegetarian dish.

Preparation Time:  45 min

Cooking Time:  1 hour

Serves: 4 (as an entree or main dish), 8 (as a side)

Ingredients:

  • 4 small Sicilian eggplants
  • 2 cups roasted tomato sauce
  • Filling:
    • 1/2 lbs ground lamb (may also use ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey)
      • For a vegetarian or vegan variation replace the ground meat with rice, farro, barley, mushrooms, or extra-firm tofu)
    • 1 medium red onion diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh Italian basil leaves chopped
    • Kosher salt to taste
    • Black pepper to taste

 

miz-for-stuffed-sicilian-eggplant-1552

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Wash, pat or spin dry, the fresh herbs; remove leaves from the stems, chop; set aside.
  • Peel and mince the garlic; set aside.
  • Peel and dice the red onion; set aside.
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplant, slice the tops of each eggplant as shown in the photo above, retain as you will use the top to cover the stuffed cavity (as shown).
    • Using a paring knife or even better, a serrated spoon, scoop out the eggplant in the core leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch of eggplant flesh in the outer sides and bottom (see above photo).
    • Chop the cored pieces of eggplant to use in the stuffing; set aside.  (Sicilian eggplants have very few seeds.)

    Make the filling:

    • Place a large saute pan on a stovetop burner set to medium-high, add oil, wait a few seconds for the oil to warm up then add the ground lamb, stirring occasionally, saute 10 minutes.
    • Add the onions, cook 1 minute, add the garlic, cook 1 minute, add the chopped eggplant and turmeric then give the mixture a good couple of stirs to fully incorporate the turmeric, cook for 10-15 minutes.
      • Eggplants soak up a lot of oil so will dry the pan very quickly.  To prevent the mixture from burning you may add more oil, stock, or water, to the pan but no more than 1/4 cup at a time.
      • You want the filling mixture to be somewhat dry, nicely browned but not burnt.
    • Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
    • Add the chopped fresh herbs, mix very well, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Cooking:

  • Pour the tomato sauce into a baking dish large enough to accommodate the number of eggplants you decided to use but without overcrowding.
  • Do not season the sauce at this point.  This recipe has more than enough of the filling to fill the four Sicilian eggplants; add any extra filling to the sauce in the baking dish.
  • Season the cavity of each eggplant with a pinch of salt and black pepper, and a light drizzle of evoo (about 1 tsp).
  • Spoon and pack the filling into each eggplant until you reach the top of each eggplant.
  • When full place the sliced top onto each eggplant; set aside.
  • When each of the eggplants has been filled and topped place the remaining filling into the baking dish and mix well.  Now taste for seasoning and season if necessary.
  • Place each eggplant onto the baking dish and place the dish into the preheated oven.
  • Cook for 1 hour (longer if you end up using older, larger Sicilian eggplants).
  • To test for doneness try putting a knife through the part of the eggplant with the thickest flesh.  If there is no resistance the eggplant is done.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Spoon out some of the sauce into a deep plate.
  • You have a couple of options then, using tongs or a spatula, place an eggplant the sauce on the plate, garnish with fresh basil, or mint.
  • If serving as a side dish, slice each eggplant in half using a serrated bread knife.

Enjoy!

Recipes and photos by Ray Toves.

 

 

 

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