Friday, September 30, 2011
Between our garden providing quite a few lovely eggplant this summer and my husband not being able to pass up some reduced eggplant in the produce aisle at our grocery store, we have had our share of eggplant to eat up. So I was thinking about some of the different ways to prepare this and was not having much success with anything that struck my fancy. While talking to my Iraqi friend, she mentioned that she will sometimes prepare eggplant stuffed with rice and meat. The light bulb went on inside my head, and I remembered that I had some leftover prepared Kasha (buckwheat) pilaf mixed with ground beef that would probably be wonderful inside the eggplant. I contemplated using some Turkish spice mixture I recently purchased, but noted that it had some cayenne pepper and was not sure how hot it would be. Since my children will not eat anything too hot, I decided to skip this and used some Greek seasoning, as well as some Za'atar seasoning mix to coat the inside of the eggplant.
I was very happy with the results, and my entire family seemed to really enjoy it, also. Note that I had prepared the buckwheat as on the box's instructions with beef broth instead of water and also had added some seasoned salt, as well as the chopped vegetables- carrots, celery, onion, garlic. The ground beef was cooked with seasoned salt and "Sofrito"- a blend of garlic, onion, green pepper and many other spices blended together. So both were already flavorful. Rice or other types of grain like quinoa or couscous would also be wonderful and would be best seasoned well as it is cooked.
* 2-3 larger eggplants, cut in half and hollowed out, saving the inner flesh (I also used some yellow summer squash that I cut in half and removed the seeds)
* 2-3 cups buckwheat Kasha pilaf prepared or other types of cooked grains
* Greek seasoning blend- may use instead Italian herb blend, seasoned salt or oregano, garlic powder, parsley, pepper, thyme, marjoram
* Za'atar seasoning- contains sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13inch pan and arrange eggplant or squash pieces in the pan. Chop any eggplant meat that was removed into chunks that will be placed on top at the end of preparation. Spread oil over the inside of the eggplant/squash and then begin seasoning them liberally with your desired seasonings/herbs. Mound up the Kasha or prepared grain over top of the eggplant or squash and place any extra into the pan around the eggplant. Put the chopped eggplant meat that has been tossed with some oil over top of the grain mixture and then sprinkle with more seasoning/seasoned salt. Grease/oil some aluminum foil and cover the pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. It may require more or less time depending on the size and thickness of the eggplant. You may check occasionally after 25 minutes by pricking with a fork. When the eggplant is soft, it is finished baking.
Serves 4-6 people. Is good with a salad and some flatbread.
**Buckwheat is not very popular in the U.S. but is loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamin and minerals. I was surprised to learn that it is not a grain but actually the fruit seed from a plant originating in Asia. It has a little stronger flavor but is really tasty when prepared using the whole or coarsely ground kernels. I prefer it best cooked with either beef or chicken broth and plenty of herbs/seasoned salt. Many people also use the buckwheat flour for pancakes or cook the whole kernels (groats) for a hot cereal. In some cultures, it is used to make noodles and is also cooked in soups. Try google-ing buckwheat health benefits if you are interested in more information. You will find so much information and other ways the grain is used.