The Heart of New England
Stuffed Eggplant
By Charlie Burke

Printer Friendly Recipe

I try to use seasonal ingredients in our recipes, but for some reason, eggplant
flies under my "seasonal radar" and I find myself using it year round.

Eggplant, sautéed, roasted or stuffed and baked is ubiquitous in antipasto
and main courses in restaurants throughout Italy; although it is served warm
or hot, just as often it is at room temperature, and this recipe lends itself to
either choice.

This is a light meatless lunch or dinner, and, sliced across into small servings,
is a great addition to an appetizer platter. I chose typical stuffing ingredients,
but others, such as chopped mushrooms, caramelized onion or sautéed
pancetta, bacon or crumbled sausage could be added. This dish, I’m sure, is
prepared in frugal Italian kitchens using stale bread and whatever is available,
so feel free to improvise. Select shiny, firm eggplants and look for the green
stem ends to have hard, needle – like spikes to ensure freshness.

Four servings:

2 large eggplants
1 ½ cup fresh bread crumbs (1 -2 day old crusty bread whirled in food
processor until approximately ¼” in size). Commercial Panko crumbs work,
as well.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano or Asiago cheese, plus
extra for the table
1 ½ tablespoons rinsed capers
½ cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
½ cup pitted, chopped oil cured black olives
1 red bell pepper, sliced and finely chopped (substitute jarred roasted red
peppers)
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Remove stems and slice eggplants lengthwise. With a spoon (a grapefruit
spoon works well), remove flesh and seeds, leaving behind the firmer flesh
under the skin. If there are large brown seeds, separate them and discard.
Coarsely chop remaining flesh and set aside. Lightly salt eggplant shells and
rub each with ½ teaspoon of the lemon juice.

Place breadcrumbs into a bowl and mix with the olive oil; add cheese and mix
well. Add chopped eggplant, the remaining lemon juice and the remaining
ingredients and toss to mix. Taste adding salt and pepper as needed.

Divide filling among eggplant halves and drizzle olive oil over filling. Lightly
oil a shallow baking pan and add ¼ inch warm water. Place eggplant into pan
and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until thickest part of
eggplant is softened. Increase oven to 450, remove foil cover and cook until
tops are browned.

Stuffed eggplant is fine served warm, so cooking can be completed 30 – 40
minutes before meal time. It is usually served without sauce, although a small
amount of tomato sauce can be used. Top with extra cheese before serving and
have olive oil on the table. Serve with rice or pasta and a salad along with a
medium red wine.

About the author: Charlie Burke, an organic farmer and avid cook, is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH
Farm to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  
Along with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
Stuffed Eggplant
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