Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vegetarian Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant

I had a friend E-mail me today asking if, when riding an escalator, English people stand to the right or to the left.  He was also curious if, upon coming face to face with someone in England, and needing to move out of the way, you'd step to your left or to your right, as we do in the States.  It made me recall the many dances I've had with strangers over my various trips to the U.K.  I never seemed to be walking or standing in the correct place, not to mention looking the appropriate way when crossing the street.  That sense of being out of your element is exactly how I felt when we first started gardening.  I had never grown anything before, nor did I know what we were going to make with it all (assuming things would grow, of course).   I loved to cook, but I hadn't done much real cooking in years.  I was too busy dealing with a new baby, a full-time job, and our fixer-upper house.   It has taken us some time to get everything right.  Did we plant these far enough apart?  Oops, it says to plant this in summer, it's January...How much water should we be giving this or that?  How partial is partial sun?  Why are all of our flower beds filled with vegetables and not flowers? (My question, not Andrew's...)  What will we do with all this produce? (Another one of mine.)  But, just as quickly as I learned to step to my left in the U.K., I started to love this new adventure.  It was fun to plant seeds, to watch them take off, and to eat the fruits of our labor.

With growing eggplant though, we have a new mantra, "two plants, not six, two plants, not six, two..."  Let's just say, we have A LOT of eggplant.  I hesitated to post another eggplant recipe so soon after my first one, and so soon after lots of other food bloggers have posted this recipe.  But, it was soooo good.  I made a few changes to substitute a few ingredients I was missing, but it came out delicious.  And now you've got two options, the vegetarian way I made it or the meat-eater way the original recipe was written (see parentheses below).  You won't regret this one!           

Adapted slightly from Gourmet Cooking...

6 Japanese eggplants (6-7 inches long)
1/2 Cup brown rice (or long-grain Jasmine rice)
1/4 Cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Cups chicken stock
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 Cup firm tofu crumbled (or ground lamb or beef chuck)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or allspice)
1/2 of a lemon
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Hollow out each eggplant using a melon-ball cutter or by digging in with a sharp ended potato peeler.  Leave about 1/3 inch eggplant flesh along interior walls.  Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water until water runs clear.  Drain well.

Heat oil in a 12-inch or larger heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Fry pine nuts, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl.  Saute onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Transfer 1/2 cup onion mixture to bowl with pine nuts.  Add stock, tomatoes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to skillet and simmer, uncovered, while stuffing eggplant.

Add rice, tofu, pumpkin pie spice, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to bowl with onion mixture and mix well with your hands. 

Stuff eggplant with tofu mixture, being careful not to pack tightly (rice will expand during cooking).  Transfer stuffed eggplants to skillet with tomato sauce and simmer, covered, carefully turning once, until rice is cooked through, 50 minutes-1 hour (cut one in half to test). 

If sauce is watery, transfer eggplant to a plate and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes, then adjust seasoning if necessary.  Return stuffed eggplant to sauce.  Squeeze lemon over dish and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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