Stuffed eggplant aren’t the prettiest things to look at. I’d much rather, say, gaze at a picture of our daughter wearing Elvis sunglasses.
But the earthy, purple-skinned veggie can easily be sauteed into submission and then stuffed back into its own shiny shell to great effect. We Southerners are like the Italians that way– nothing puts a kick in our step like stuffing a vegetable. We love to take out the insides, spruce them up with something fancy (most likely cheesy) and then force the bits back into their original vessel. (Hmmmm… I won’t analyze what that says about our two cultures…)
The eggplant are hearty, comforting–I’ll call them my mealtime hug. And that’s exactly what Parker and I need on a rainy October Friday without Jamie. He flies out today to headline a charity culinary event down South and so we’re left to plan our own menus all weekend long. I think fresh fig crostata is our Saturday project. (Frangipane delights Parker like the swings in Washington Square.) Just one more recipe that brings us closer to Italy’s dolce vita, late nights in Rome
- 4 baby eggplant
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing pan and eggplant shells
- ¾ lb ground sirloin
- 1 28 oz can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- ⅓rd cup fresh basil, chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cut each eggplant in half, length-wise. Using a medium-sized spoon, scoop out the interior of the eggplant and chop, making sure to leave the shells in tact.
- In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, pour 3 tablespoons olive oil and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Sautee onions until soft, about 3-5 minutes, and then add the garlic.
- While onions and garlic are cooking, place the eggplant shells on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle eggplant shells with a little oil and rub in with your fingers. Season oiled shells with salt. Place in the oven.
- Once the onions and garlic have softened, add the chopped eggplant as well as the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sautee eggplant until it takes on a golden brown color, about 5 minutes. Add the sirloin--seasoning it well with salt and pepper--and cook until no longer pink. Adjust the flame to medium-high and add the can of whole peeled tomatoes and its juice. To the mixture, add oregano, sugar, red pepper flakes. Allow the tomato/beef mixture to simmer for around 5 minutes or until the liquid has been reduced by half. Stir in the fresh basil and remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove eggplant shells from the oven. Fill with the cooked eggplant/beef mixture and finish with finely grated parmesan cheese. A final sprinkle of fresh basil never hurt anything.
- Enjoy warm with a glass of Sangiovese or Nebbiolo. Gaze at chubby baby pictures on countertop and feel immensely satisfied.