My husband managed to grow the most beautiful eggplants this summer – long, slender, and deep-purple Japanese – and plenty of them. Immediately, I knew what to do with the first crop: my native Azerbaijan’s stuffed eggplants!
While American cookery is not big on eggplants, they are a major staple back home, and most people really enjoy them in one form or another – especially this one here.
I so do love this dish – flavorful, meaty, and ultimately “summer.” Serve it with some good bread and a simple salad (I favor sliced tomatoes and cucumbers).
Azerbaijani-Style Stuffed Eggplants
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2/3 cup of uncooked rice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (optional – I was out of onions and didn’t use it)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 chopped fresh basil (do not substitute dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- vegetable oil, for browning the meat
- 10-14 slender Japanese eggplants, depending on size
- plain yogurt mixed with a little crushed garlic, for serving
1. Trim the leafy caps from the eggplants.
2. Using a paring knife, make a deep, long incision in the inner curve of each eggplant (so it resembles a boat), leaving about an inch on both sides of the incision uncut. Be sure to not cut all the way to the bottom.
3. Use a teaspoon to gently scoop out some of the eggplant’s fleshy inside, just enough to hold about 3 tablespoons or so of filling.
4. Brown the meat and the optional onions in a little bit of oil. Stir in the garlic and saute for an additional minute, if using. Stir in the tomato paste.
5. Add the rice, Montreal Steak Seasoning/salt and pepper, chopped herbs, cinnamon, and ginger to the meat mixture. Stir everything well.
6. Fill the eggplants with the mixture and place them side-by-side in a dutch oven in one or two layers, depending on your pot’s size.
7. Add enough water to almost cover the eggplants and throw in the butter. Bring everything to a gentle simmer and continue simmering for an hour, or until the meat and the eggplants are completely tender (some of the filling might escape during the cooking – be sure to serve it alongside the eggplants).
8. Serve hot with some of the cooking liquid and topped with plain yogurt or yogurt-and-garlic mixture, as well as plenty of fresh, crusty bread (such as this no-knead) to soak up the cooking liquid. Leave nothing to the enemy!