I was catering a party a few weeks ago and I had an eggplant dish on the menu. I went to my local fruit and vegetable wholesale grocer and bought 25 eggplants. Let's just say I COMPLETELY overestimated (which tends to happen sometimes) and ended up with about 11 extra eggplants. Not only did I not have room in my refrigerator for 11 eggplants, I had no events coming up calling for eggplants. They do not last a long time so I had to figure out how to use them up quickly! I decided to view this challenge as an opportunity to find out the quickest possible way of using up these eggplants without resorting to my fallback, eggplant parm (although it is delicious).
That same week, I found myself at the North Market in Columbus, OH at a place called North Market Spices. They are located at the entrance which made it my first spot (They order these fabulous kosher spices from Kalustyans in NYC)! Just walking by you get hit by a fantastic whiff of hundreds of spices. I was drawn towards the shop and my brain went into to overload just dreaming about the different ways I would use these spices. Dried lemongrass, star anise, chai...I was in heaven.
I was put in the right place at the right time, exactly when I needed that inspiration!
Although I used up only four of my eggplants in this recipe, it still brought my numbers down. I used another four in a babaganoush that I absolutely love. The last three.... I haven't decided what I want to do with them yet. Suggestion box open :)
Savory Spiced Stuffed Eggplant
4 Medium Eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise
2 Onions, chopped
4 Tbs. Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 - 6 oz. Can Tomato Paste
1/2 tsp. Dried Lemon Grass
1/2 tsp. Anise Seed
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Coriander Seed
1 tsp. Cayenne (optional)
Pinch of Nutmeg
1/2 C. Parsley, chopped (reserve some chopped parsley for garnish)
1/2 C. Water
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Scoop out the seeds and the inside of the eggplants with a metal spoon, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the sides. lightly salt and let sit for 30 minutes.
In a large pan, heat pan (without oil) on medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching carefully so that they do not burn. Add oil and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add in garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds. Add in ground beef and mix with spatula for about 3 minutes. Add to the tomato paste and all of the spices to the meat mixture. Mix till combined. Turn off the heat and mix the parsley into the meat mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 350. Rinse off the eggplants and place in a baking dish. Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and rub all around to coat the whole eggplant. Take the cooled meat mixture and scoop the meat into the eggplants pressing down the mixture into the eggplant after each scoop. Fill till the meat reaches a little above the edge of the eggplant. Repeat with the rest of the eggplants and place in a baking dish. Fill the bottom with 1/2 C. water and cover. Bake for 50 minutes covered then remove the cover and bake for 10 more minutes.
Serve warm and garnish with the reserved parsley.