Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

Kitchen Play List:   Aerosmith ~ Rag Doll
                                  Nicola Benedetti ~ Zigeunerweisen Op.20
                                  Jorge Ben ~ Oba, La Vem Ela
                                  Mr. Buble ~ Georgia on my Mind
                                  Jack Johnson ~ Banana Pancakes
                                  Shelby Lynne ~ I Only Want to be With You
                                  Chris Cornell ~ She'll Never Be Your Man
                                  Thunder ~ Have Mercy
                                  Bruce Springsteen ~ Hungry heart
                                  Roy Orbinson & KD Lang ~ Crying
                                  Will Smith ~ Switch

Well now...eggplant/aubergine has always been a royal pain for me. I have been served it many times...and unfortunately very badly cooked. So much so that I began to have a phobia of the purple vegetable. *shuddering* Then about 11 years ago, I was invited to dinner at a relatively new friend's house. Now Micheal was the most gorgeous Italian/American man...outside but more so, on the inside. He and his husband Tim were two of the kindest men I think I'll ever meet in this life time. So, when invited to dinner I was very happy to go until Michael informed me that he was going to cook his mothers Eggplant Parmesan! I couldn't back out of the dinner as I was staying at their home overnight so I went along with a heavy heart, knowing I was going to have to once again do battle with the purple beast! I arrived to the smell of 'real' tomato sauce being cooked in a large vat on his stove top. The heady hit of garlic and tomato made my mouth water. And he was in full kitchen mode...or chaos as Tim whispered into my ear and guided me to the lounge to have drinks whilst Michael finished. I was informed it was much safer that way. lol. An hour later I was sat at the dinner table, with a couple of glasses of red wine of courage inside me, staring at this baking dish that looked and smelt delicious. I was served my salad and then a portion from the baking dish. I tasted the sauce with some of my salad and the flavours made me tingle. I found I was unable to stop myself from cutting off a piece of eggplant....and it tasted like nothing I had ever tasted before. The eggplant was soft inside and crispy with the coating and the tomato sauce with the Parmesan all melted together in my mouth and I was sure I had found food heaven. And I am not ashamed to say I had seconds and then another portion for breakfast the next morning. lol. God bless Michael's family recipe. 

Now, I thought I had found my eggplant love. But when I ordered the same dish at a restaurant shortly after, I was served a half cooked eggplant and my phobia rose again. I have come to this realisation...the eggplant has to be cooked very well, it has to be cut into small dice in casseroles, not ever eaten cold and I have to cook it! Otherwise I just can't eat it. And then sometimes I still struggle. I remember a particular stuffed eggplant moment where it looked fine, tested fine but when it came time to eat it...nope..it wasn't going to happen. 

However this does not stop me from looking at recipes and thinking...I could eat that! And this is one of them. It was submitted to FatFreeVegan.com by Courtney @ Vegetarian Times on the forum. And I finally found a supplier that sells baby eggplants so I came home with a large bag of them for testing. I was, as normal, a little worried I wouldn't be able to eat them but when cooked they were soft, succulent and the stuffing was tasty. I served mine over a Bulgar Wheat bed. We both gave them a 9...

Stuffed Baby Eggplant/Aubergines

(Recipe submitted to FatFreeVegan.com by Courtney/Vegetarian Times) 

4 - 6 baby eggplants
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
1 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
1/2 cup of fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste 
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (see notes after recipe)
1/2 tsp sugar
Chopped parsley for garnish

Cut the eggplants in half lengthways. Using a melon baller or knife, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/8 inch of skin of the eggplant intact. To form a shell. 

Finely chop the flesh and set aside. Arrange the eggplant shells in a skillet. Add a touch of oil to a medium saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and beginning to brown about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the drained tomatoes, reserved eggplant flesh, parsley, bayleaf and cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occassionally, until eggplant is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard bay leaf and fill the eggplant shells with the mixture. (They will be very full)

In a small bowl, mix the tomato juices, lemon juice and sugar. Gently pour over the eggplants. Cover and cook over a low heat until the eggplants are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the skillet. 

Carefully transfer the eggplants to a serving platter, reshaping if necessary. Spoon the pan juices over and around the eggplants. Serve warm or at room temperature or cover and chill to serve cold. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. 

NB:  I used the full 1/4 cup measure of lemon juice this time and it was lovely but a little too much for my taste so next time I will use half...2 tbsp instead. And I served mine hot.