I pinned a recipe for stuffed eggplant a while back, thinking that, one of these days, when I had the right ingredients on hand, I could vegetarianize it. Last weekend at the farmer’s market, I ran across some gorgeous baby eggplant, so, naturally, I couldn’t resist.
Since the hubby had also seen fit to purchase, butcher*, and grill a guinea fowl for dinner, we decided to just cook the whole meal on the grill. We started off with some grilled shishito peppers and a young gouda cheese, both of which we also picked up at the farmer’s market that morning.
* Don’t ask. I’d rather I didn’t know the details, really.
Shishito peppers are similar to my all-time favorites, padron peppers, but they seem to be much more common here. The best way to enjoy them is blistered in a cast-iron skillet on the grill, sprinkled with some coarse salt, and drizzled with olive oil and a smidge of good-quality balsamic vinegar.
For dinner, I stuffed the eggplant with a mixture of grains, sauteed onions and garlic, toasted pine nuts, and spices, and simmered them in tomato sauce.
The result was delicious, although I think the cooking would have been a bit more precise and even on the stovetop rather than the grill. Regardless, it was a lovely evening, and you cook outside when it’s that nice. Or at least, I do.
We rounded out the meal with some grilled purple potatoes and a simple tomato and cucumber salad. What a lovely way to spend an evening!
Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
Inspired by this recipe from Smitten Kitchen
6 (5- to 6-inch long) baby eggplants
3 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups farro or mixed grains**
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes in juice***
1 tsp ground allspice
3 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
Hollow out each eggplant with a melon-baller, working from the bottom end and leaving about 1/3 inch of flesh along the interior walls.
Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and add the grains. Cook according to package directions, or until the grains are tender and the liquid is absorbed.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the pine nuts, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Sauté the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the pine nuts and stir in the cooked grains. Add the allspice, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Add the tomatoes or sauce to the skillet, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, stuff the eggplant with the grains mixture, being careful not to pack too tightly. Transfer the stuffed eggplants to the skillet with tomato sauce and simmer, covered, carefully turning once, until the eggplant is very tender, 50 minutes to an hour. Serve topped with the tomato sauce from the pan, plus an extra sprinkling of parsley.
** I used a 5-grain mix from Central Market, and it worked beautifully.
** You can also use fresh chopped tomatoes, or homemade tomato sauce instead. I had just finished a batch of tomato sauce to can, and had enough left over to serve perfectly here.