Eggplant is that wonderful veggie that comes in so many beautiful colors this time of year. They can be white, lavender, striped or most commonly dark purple.
They are a tender vegetable that develop complex flavors when cooked.
Here is my favorite recipe for using eggplant.
It comes from my “Sito’s Cookbook” Recipes from my Lebanese Grandmother.
Although the skin is thin and doesn’t technically need peeling, her recipe calls for peeling
2-3 Large eggplants and then cutting them at ½ -3/4 inch rounds.
Generously salt both sides and place on several layers of paper towels to absorb the liquid it will produce. Leave them alone for about an hour.
Salting helps to remove any bitterness from the eggplant and softens it to reduce the amount of oil it absorbs during cooking
Rinse eggplant and pat dry with paper towels.
Now you have some choices…..you can fry the eggplant in oil until it is lightly browned and soft, brush both sides with oil and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or grill it after is has been brushed with oil. For this recipe, I chose to grill them. I used a Ziploc bag with added oil to simplify the brushing process.
In the meantime, cook 1 pound of ground beef with a medium chopped onion until no longer pink and the onion is softened. Use a pinch of Allspice and Cinnamon to the mixture. Add ¼ cup pine nuts toward the end of cooking.
My grandmother used to use course ground or chili ground beef. She really preferred lamb when it was available. The pine nuts add more texture to the dish than flavor, so if you want to add more, go ahead.
Use one large can (28 oz.) of whole tomatoes. I put them in a bowl and squeeze my fingers through the tomatoes to break them up (my favorite part, playing with the food),
Add ½ can of water, salt and pepper
Now, to assemble
I use a 9x13 glass cake pan and start with a layer of the eggplant. It will be very soft
Add the meat mixture…all of it.
Top with more eggplant
Add the tomato mixture on top
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes
This casserole can be assembled and frozen for use at a later date. So if you have lots of eggplant, you might want to make two casseroles…one for now and one for later
It is traditionally served over rice pilaf
It’s a good healthy meal.