Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

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Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is so popular Julia Moskin of The New York Times did an article about “Jerusalem fever.” Do I have Jerusalem fever? Well, I’ve been cooking from it gradually, making that fattoush a few months ago, and that beet dip I posted about yesterday. The beet dip was for this week’s Clean Plate Club and the entree, also from Jerusalem, is the one you see above: eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts.

The flavors in Jerusalem are right in my wheelhouse: bright, acidic salads, heavily spiced meats and vegetables. This stuffed eggplant dish has big flavor but also a smart ratio of meat to vegetable. This is the kind of cooking people do in countries that aren’t America: meat acts more like a flavoring rather than a giant Flintstone-sized slab on the plate. The eggplant, as you can see, plays that role here. You slice four of them in half and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper until they’re brown.

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Meanwhile, you make a meaty filling with ground lamb (I found some at Gelson’s; so much more flavor than ground beef!), pine nuts, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, parsley, tomato paste, and a little sugar.

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Now the fun part: you scoop the meat on to the eggplant and make sure your eggplants are well-balanced or they’ll topple over, meat and all.

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Then you make a braising liquid using water, lemon juice, tamarind paste (which I found at the Indian supermarket near my apartment), more of those spices from above and cinnamon sticks. Pour that around the eggplant and then cover the pan. I actually had trouble with the covering part because my roasting pan has handles, but I made do.

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It roasts for 90 minutes at 375 degrees. Make sure to baste every so often and check the liquid; because my seal wasn’t tight enough, my liquid evaporated halfway through and the tamarind almost started to burn, but I stepped in just in time and added water and all was well.

The best part is: once it comes out of the oven, you can just let it sit for a while–Ottolenghi recommends serving it at room temperature. Make sure to drizzle some of the braising liquid on top when you do, though, because there’s a lot of flavor from the tamarind and cinnamon. Check it out: lamb-stuffed eggplant on a plate.

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May not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it makes for a hearty, relatively-healthy weeknight dinner. So once again, a triumph for Ottolenghi and his runaway success of a cookbook. Guess there ain’t no cure for Jerusalem fever.

Recipe: Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

Summary: From Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium eggplants (about 2 1/2 lb), halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 7 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2/3 ounce flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to accomadate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. While the eggplants are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
  4. Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix well.
  5. Reduce the oven temp to 375 F. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

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