One of the things I am loving most about Jerusalem, the Ottolenghi cookbook, is that it is teaching me new ways to think about vegetables. After living in Italy for so long, I’ve become very lazy when it comes to dealing with things like zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, kind of doing the same thing over and over.
So I was really happy to discover a completely easy and delicious way to play with eggplant. I forget the original ingredients in Jerusalem stuffed eggplant recipe, but the main part that has stuck with me the last few weeks has been the first step: slice the eggplants in half, lengthwise, score them and roast them.
Then, once cooked, you can pretty much do what you will with them. Top them, stuff them. Whatever.
Last week I worked in some of the intense cherry tomatoes from our garden, as well as a few green frigitelli peppers. Raisins, pine nuts and a bit of mint made it vaguely Sicilian feeling. And since I also had a cup of left over fregola (a Sardinian small dry pasta) I threw that in too.
A bit of feta left over from the previous day’s Greek Salad and that was it.
I’m going to write the recipe for this below, but please don’t worry if you don’t have any of the ingredients. I’ve already made it with mostly onions and olives, and plan on doing porky version tonight. I’m even thinking that something with an egg baked into each half might be good too.
The genius about this dish is that depending on what you put into it, it can be a first course, side dish or (if you add meat or egg) even a main course.
3 medium eggplants
4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for brushing
4 frigitelli peppers (I think they are also called Romano or Carmen peppers. Or if you can’t find them, one green bell pepper), chopped in small pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half.
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup cooked fregola (you can use rice or any other grain or small pasta like orzo)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F
Slice each eggplant in half, length wise. Using a sharp knife, score the flesh in a diamond pattern, being careful not to break through the skin. Brush flesh with olive oil, and place on cooking sheet, flesh side up. Bake until tender and just staring to brown. About 25 minutes
In the meantime pour olive oil into frying pan and add onions and peppers. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add tomatoes and cook until they just start to soften. Add pine nuts and raisins and cook until the pine nuts begin to brown a bit.
Place the onion mixture in a bowl and add mint.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, gently scoop up the flesh, being careful not to break the skin shells. Add flesh to onion mixture and stir.
Lightly salt each eggplant shell, then divide the mixture between them. Top with a bit of crumbled feta
Place back in hot oven and cook for about 15 minutes.