Eggplants ( and zucchini) are not the most favoured vegetable for many. Fortunately this stuffed vegetable dish is absolutely delicious, healthy and looks amazing. The eggplant and zucchini flavour is mellowed and sweeter when cooked this way rendering a melt-in-your mouth meal. Also, it is nice to use a medley of different vegetables rather than eggplants alone. You can always use a combination of heirloom tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants.
This dish is traditional to the Peloponnese – an area of Southern Mainland Greece. My parents are from this area of greece and do recall this dish being served in late spring and late summer many times when their garden was prolific.
The parsley and mint is fresh and not really a ‘pinch’ of herbs but rather a fair quantity. The mince mixture also includes extra chopped vegetables.
You can top the vegetables off with some bechamel sauce if you like or cook with the tops of the vegetables on and sprinkle some feta and a sharp cheese , and blistered cherry tomatoes prior to serving.
Enjoyed with a glass of chilled red wine in summer and if you like to minimise your carbohyrates during dinner it is perfect for a dinner meal. I make this dish over the weekend when we have relatives or friends over during lunch or dinner. At the moment the lebanese eggplants in the garden are thriving and as I don’t like to waste the fruits of my green-thumb labour this dish will be ideal.
4 lebanese eggplants
4 medium sized zucchinis
2 large tomatoes
500g extra lean mince
1 onion chopped
1/2 garlic head chopped
1/2 cup parsley chopped and fresh
1/4 cup mint chopped and fresh
1 medium sized tomato grated
1 small tin 250g tin organic tomatoes
1/2 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle tomato puree or passata
1 tbspn olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped
Add all three ingredients into a small saucepan and allow to simmer gently while preparing the dish as per below.
Cut the zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes horizontally. The top 1/5th.
Chop your onion and garlic.
With a sharp small knife make a cut 1/2 cm away from the outer skin all the way around and score the inside. Use a small teaspoon to hollow out the vegetables careful not to pearce the skin.
Place the eggplants in salty water for 10 mins then drain.
Reserve and chop the inside of the zucchini and tomato.
Spray pan with oil of choice and cook each side of zucchinis, eggplants and tomatoes for half a minute. Traditionally the vegetables are fried but I find it is sufficient to lightly spray the pan and lightly cook the vegetables.
Place cooked vegetables into a large oven dish. Ready for filling.
Add olive oil into a pan and heat. Add the mince and brown well on high heat. Ensure there are no clumps of mince, but evenly cooked meat that is light brown in appearance.
Mix in chopped onion and garlic.
Add the reserved chopped vegetables ( from hulling ) and stir through for one minute.
Add tin tomato and reduce heat to medium for 5 minutes.
If I have some extra ripe tomatoes on hand I’ll grate those or place in blender and use it in place of the tin tomatoes.
Add the cinnamon, salt , pepper and water. Allow the ingredients to cook for 30 minutes in medium heat.
Throughout the 30 minutes stir intermittently and add boiling water if the liquids have evaporated too quickly – 1/4 of a cup each time. Start off with the lid on for the first 15 mins then move the lid so that some of the steam escapes. Don’t add too much water each time as you don’t want a very watery mix.
Mix in the fresh herbs, remove the cinnamon stick. Turn off the heat.
Fill the vegetables with the cooked mince mixture.
Poor tomato sauce around the vegetables.
Top with Bechamel sauce if you like or seal with the cut tops of the respective vegetables.
Serve with a feta and grated sharp cheese ( ie parmigiano ) and of course more herbs.