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Author Notes: During my time spent living in Amsterdam, I developed quite a dependence on tasty, inexpensive Turkish food. Among my favorites was this delicious stuffed eggplant that my neighborhood Turkish take-away joint would serve over an ample portion of rice pilaf or red bulgur, all for a cool six euros. It became my go-to dinner on those nights when I just didn't feel like cooking.
Fast forward a few years to when I discovered these lovely Fairy Tale eggplants at the farmers' markets in New York City. They are just so little and cute you almost don't want to cook them. And when you do cook them, you could very easily slice them in half, sauté them in oil for a few minutes, sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt and enjoy them just so. But I'm always looking for fun takes on finger food, and I can't think of a better use for them than recreating one of my sentimental favorites as a party hors d'oeuvre! —jeffreyolsen
Makes 12 stuffed mini eggplants
- 12 Fairy Tale Eggplants
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 1 yellow onion (diced)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves (finely diced)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 large tomato (peeled and chopped)
- 1 allspice berry
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sumac
- 2 long green peppers (sliced horizontally)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- With a very sharp knife, score each eggplant from stem to base, cutting into it as deeply as possible being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the eggplants in salted water and set aside for 20 minutes. They will float so you may have to put a bowl on top to ensure they are submerged.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan on high heat. Add the ground lamb and brown on all sides. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan with the remaining olive oil and rendered lamb fat. Sweat for four minutes. Add the salt, pepper, garlic and bay leaf and cook for another two minutes. Add the cumin, tomato paste, oregano and mint. Stir through with the other ingredients and cook for one minute. Add the tomato, and cook for another three minutes. Return the lamb to the pan, stir through with everything else, add the water and allspice berry and simmer on low heat for fifteen minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the eggplants from the water. Gently squeeze out the pulp and seeds from the interior. You'll be surprised at how easily they come out. Set eggplants, slit side up, in an ovenproof baking dish.
- After fifteen minutes (or once mixture has mostly thickened), add the aleppo pepper and sumac. Allow to cook for another two minutes and then remove from heat. When the mixture has cooled a little bit, stuff the eggplants. Put a slice of green pepper into the slit of each eggplant, on top of the stuffing, sprinkle with lemon juice, and cover tightly with foil.
- Bake until eggplants are tender, about half an hour. Serve as finger food or over a bed of rice.