Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato Sauce


Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato Sauce


Here’s a wonderful Eastern Mediterranean vegetarian dish that is also gluten-free: stuffed eggplant. It’s rich in olive oil, chickpeas, rice and aromatic spices, with a complementing tomato sauce to top it with. The colorful dish makes a full meal, especially when accompanied by a salad.


The unusual spice used, in limited quantity because it penetrates, is allspice. Allspice is almost invariable in traditional stuffed vegetables and other stuffed dishes in the Arab countries. In nearby Greece and Turkiye, the equivalent spice would typically be cinnamon, which has some flavor and aroma overlaps with allspice. Cinnamon can be used in place of the allspice in the recipes below. Already-cooked rice is part of the eggplant stuffing, and should be cooked before making that stuffing. Rice expands about four-fold during cooking, so cook a quarter to a third the volume of raw rice that you will need for the recipe.


Allow half an eggplant per person. I’m writing the recipe to serve four people, but it is easily halved or increased. The stuffed eggplants can be baked ahead then reheated in the oven or microwave for dinner. The sauce should be reheated in the microwave.


Stuffed Eggplants:

1 1/2 cups cooked rice from about 1/2 cup raw rice

2 medium-sized eggplants (about 1 pound each)

1 quart water for soaking eggplant

Salt for the eggplant

1 small onion, finely diced (about 6 tablespoons diced)

1 medium-sized clove garlic

4 Roma type tomatoes for stuffing plus 1 additional for topping

1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or jack type cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt for the stuffing

1/2 teaspoon oregano

3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or cinnamon)

A large pinch of cayenne

6 tablespoons olive oil for the stuffing plus extra for drizzling

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon (approx.) minced parsley for topping


Cook the rice with 1 cup water and no salt in a small pan, reducing the heat when it boils to lowest heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes without opening the lid. Remove from the heat and keep covered until needed for the recipe.


Rinse the eggplants. Keep the leafy top attached. With a long knife cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. With a small knife make a shallow cut into the eggplant flesh all around about 1/4 inch in from the skin. With a teaspoon, carefully scoop out (and save) the flesh, leaving a shell about 1/4 inch thick. Very lightly salt the insides of the eggplant shells and set them aside. Chop the scooped-out flesh coarsely (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces) and place the chopped material in a bowl containing 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon salt to extract the bitter juices. Soak this for at least 15 minutes.


On a cutting board, dice the onion finely and set it on a platter. Mince the garlic and set it near the onion, Finely dice 4 tomatoes (core end cut out), and set them in another pile on the platter. Drain and coaresly chop the eggplant flesh, and set it on the platter. With the side of the knife, mash the drained chickpeas and place them on the platter. Have the cooked rice measured and ready. Into a small bowl, measure the dry seasonings, including the salt, spices and herbs.


Heat a frying pan to medium hot. Add the olive oil and onion. Stir and fry until the onion has softened but not browned. Add the minced garlic and stir and fry 1/2 minute. Add the tomato and chopped eggplant flesh. Stir and fry 5 or more minutes, until these vegetables are cooked, breaking up the eggplant pieces. Finally add the dry seasonings, and fry, stirring, for a final minute. Remove from the heat.


Stir the cooked rice, mashed chickpeas, and shredded cheese into the fried vegetable mixture. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste the mixture and add a little salt if needed.


With paper towel, wipe any accumulated juices out of the prepared eggplant shells. Fill the cavities in the eggplant halves, mounding up the filling evenly. Thinly slice the reserved Roma tomato across into 8 slices and place two slices onto the top of each stuffed eggplant. Sprinkle lightly with the minced parsley, and drizzle the tops with olive oil.


Bake, stuffed sides up, on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until well heated, and the eggplant shell is soft, 30-40 minutes. While the eggplants are baking, make the tomato sauce.


Tomato Sauce:

1/2 of a small onion, minced, about 3 tablespoons when minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

A pinch of ground allspice (or cinnamon)

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of ground black pepper


Place the minced onion and olive oil in a small pan. Measure the crushed tomato and add to it the salt and spices.


Heat the pan and gently fry the onion, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned. Add the tomatoes plus the seasonings, and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Taste, and add salt if necessary.


To serve:

Place a stuffed eggplant half, either hot from the oven or, if made ahead, either rebaked or heated thoroughly in the microwave. Serve the tomato sauce hot (microwave is easiest if sauce was made ahead) for diners to spoon onto their stuffed eggplants.

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