Joe

Vegetarian Stuffed Eggplant

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I hated eggplant as a kid. So did my sister, Michele. Any attempt on my Mom’s part to get us to eat it was met with wartime-level subversive resistance. This fierce resistance came to a head one summer evening when my sister and I refused to eat eggplant Parmigiana for dinner. Refusing to give an inch, Michele and I hatched a plan. My mom had served the food in a bowl placed on a plate. The eggplant was cut in discs, which were the perfect shape to conceal under the bowl and declare “we’re done!!”. It was only when the eggplant floated to the top of the dishwater in the sink that our deception became clear and all hell broke loose!

My childhood disgust for eggplant began to change when when I learned that frying eggplant is really hard because the eggplant quickly soaks up all the available oil. Baking, grilling and stewing eggplant are much easier prepare. Also, I just abandoned the whole salting of eggplant thing. I really don’t think it helps.

So today, I love eggplant. Baked, grilled, diced, rolled, hot, cold. . .you name it. And in the summer at the height of eggplant season, stuffed eggplant is my #1 favorite! There are a lot of ways to make this dish. I scored some beautiful organic Italian eggplants at the local Melrose Place Farmers Market. Yes, there is an actual street named Melrose Place 🎥 in LA, and yes, it hosts a Sunday farmers market. 🥕🫑🍆

This particular preparation is from the Puglia region of Italy, where the salty and briny taste of olives and capers mix with the sweetness and brightness of tomatoes and mint. You certainly could add chopped anchovies, or leave out the cheese altogether to make it completely vegan. Other versions, from Sicily for instance, include a mixture of breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins. And my mom would make stuffed eggplant with cooked rice and cooked sausage mixed together with some “green can” cheese.

So go find some beautiful summer eggplants and cook away!!

Buon Appetito!! 😋

Joey and Michele… 🇮🇹

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Vegetarian Stuffed eggplant photo

Vegetarian Stuffed Eggplant


Description

This is a great light dish for summertime. Choose uniformly shaped Italian (globe) eggplants that are of medium size. The larger an eggplant, the larger the seeds. Serve this dish with a salad as a nice meal or as an appetizer for a group. The recipe easily scales up as needed.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium Italian eggplant
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 firm medium fresh tomatoes, e.g. plum
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 pitted black olives
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • ¼ cup dried breadcrumbs (I like to use panko breadcrumbs)
  • 2 stems mint leaves, stems removed, plus some chopped mint for garnish
  • 1 tbsp grated cheese (pecorino or parmigiana)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Prepare the stuffing. Select a medium bowl to hold the stuffing.

  1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise in half. With a melon baller or teaspoon, hollow out the eggplant and place the pulp on a cutting board. Rough chop the pulp. Set the hollowed eggplant aside.
  2. Over medium heat, add a tbsp of olive oil to a medium sauce pan. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Finally add the chopped eggplant pulp and sauté until everything is softened. If the pan becomes dry, add a little water or white wine. Place the mixture in the bowl for the stuffing.
  3. Rough chop the tomatoes, capers and pitted black olives and add to the stuffing bowl. Rough chop the mint leaves and add to bowl.
  4. Finally, add the breadcrumbs and cheese to bowl. Mix together and taste. Quite a bit of salt was already added by the olives, capers and cheese. Add salt and pepper as you like. Add a tbsp of olive oil to moisten the mixture; toss to combine.

Prepare the eggplant. Select a baking dish to hold the eggplant halves.

  1. Trim away the the root end of the eggplant. Rinse out each half and lay each half cut side down on a towel to dry.
  2. Hold each eggplant half over the bowl with the stuffing, stuff the eggplant with the prepared mixture filling it but without packing in. Place each eggplant in the baking dish.
  3. Preheat oven to 400℉. Drizzle a little olive oil over each eggplant. Add a few tbsps water to the baking dish to create steam. Grease the underside of a piece of foil with olive oil using a pastry brush, a paper towel or cooking spray.
  4. Cover the dish holding the eggplant with the prepared foil and seal tightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and check if the eggplant is soft by inserting a sharp knife into the white flesh. If still tough, re-cover and bake for another ten minutes and test again. Finally, bake uncovered for another 10 minutes to brown the eggplant.
  5. This dish can be served hot, room temperature or cold; before serving sprinkle chopped mint on top. If you are going to refrigerate the eggplant for later, allow them to cool to room temp before placing in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2

Join the Conversation

  1. How delicious! I make something very similar from time to time although I haven’t ever added mint—I’ll try that next time, it sounds like a lovely touch.

    I do have to say that I can’t relate to your childhood story. I always *loved* eggplant. In fact, Eggplant Parmigiana was one of my very favorite dishes my grandmother would make when I was a kid. I could eat half a baking dish of the stuff! And I still love it. On the other hand, my 88 year old Dad doesn’t like eggplant. Funnily enough, I only just found out!

  2. This sounds lovely! I never can remember if you can eat the eggplant skin or not – what is your opinion?
    Can’t wait for your magazine to come out.
    Thank you,
    Ellen

  3. Excellent and delicious… I’ve made this dish several times since discovering the recipe a few months ago. I use basil instead of the mint because mint isn’t something I keep on hand. Very flavorful and filling!






    1. Joe Author says:

      Thank you for the complement! My mom used to make sausage stuffed eggplant in the summer all the time. But they were a little heavy for when it was really hot so this was my re-do of her classic… Joe

  4. Is it 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs? It’s not specified. Thanks!

    1. Yes, 1/4 cup… I’ll correct the recipe, thanks. Joe

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