North African Bulgar Stuffed Baby Eggplant
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- finger eggplants (about 4 in long)
- 1/2 c
- coarse bulgar wheat
- 1 1/2 c
- boiling water, salted
- 3 Tbsp
- olive oil, divided
- small yellow onion
- garlic cloves
- (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes (400g)
- 2 tsp
- 1/2 tsp
- 1/2 tsp
- 1/4 tsp
- ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp
- red pepper flakes
- 1/2 c
- pine nuts
- small bunch fresh mint (1/2 cup chopped)
- handful fresh parsley (1/2 cup chopped)
- lemon, juice only
- salt and pepper
1Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2Cut each baby eggplant in half, keeping the stem end intact and going straight to the tail tip.
Use one tablespoon of oil to brush liberally over the eggplants, both front and back, before laying them cut side up on a baking sheet.
Tuck the oiled eggplant halves in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and easily pierced with a fork but the bodies have not collapsed.
3While the eggplant are baking up, it’s a perfect time to toast the pine nuts.
Spread the nuts out on an ungreased baking sheet in a single layer.
Tuck them in the oven for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through.
When the pine nuts are mostly golden brown (some may be darker and that is absolutely okay) they are toasted and ready.
Shake the nuts off the pan and into a bowl so that they do not continue cooking with the ambient heat.
4Cooking the bulghar is as easy as can be.
Put it into a heatproof container and pour the boiling water over top.
Sprinkle liberally with salt (about 1/2 tsp) and let it stand for 15 minutes.
The grain will start to soak up that hot, salty water and rehydrate, becoming tender and fluffy.
You could let the bulghar soak for as long as 30 minutes, but I like to drain it after 15 so that it is still a touch al dente.
After all, when the bulgar is added to the tomato mixture and baked it will continue to soak up moisture so it shouldn’t be mushy soft.
5The nuts are toasted, the eggplant is baking, and the bulghar is soaking. Life is pretty good.
6Chop the onions into a small, thin mince and finely mince the garlic.
Put the aromatics in a large saucepan, along with the remaining two tablespoons of oil, and set it over medium heat.
Starting the onions and garlic off in a cold pan will encourage them to deepen and sweeten without as much risk of burning.
7After 5-7 minutes when the onions are a pale gold color add the diced tomatoes, honey and dried spices.
Give this a stir and turn the heat down slightly to medium low.
You will need to cook the tomato mixture for at least 7-10 minutes, stirring fairly regularly, or until the liquid has reduced significantly in the pan.
8Are the eggplants soft?
As soon as they are cool enough to handle, use a small paring knife to score all around the edges of the eggplant, leaving a skin which is about 1/4″ thick.
Carefully scoop out the flesh (I like to use a melon-baller to do this) which needs to be given a good chop.
9When the tomato mixture has thickened enough that you can run a spoon through it and still see the bottom of the pan 5 seconds later, add the chopped eggplant flesh and stir it through.
Let this cook for a minute or two so that the flavors can combine.
10Finely chop the mint and parsley leaves.
There should be slightly more mint than parsley, but be generous with both.
Reserve one tablespoon of the chopped herbs to use as garnish.
11Take the pan off the heat before adding the bulgar (which has been drained and squeezed dry) to the tomatoes, along with the pine nuts, mint and parsley.
Stir everything together, squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lemon, and season quite generously with salt and pepper.
You can’t afford to be shy with the seasoning in a bulgar dish.
12Spoon the stuffing into your gutted eggplant halves, pressing it together and really mounding it inches high.
Your cupped palm is the best tool that you could have to keep the mixture in a pseudo-dome shape as you press it into the shells.
13Bake the eggplant for 15-20 minutes, or until they are warmed through and the tops are just starting to brown.
Sprinkle the eggplant with your reserved chopped parsley and mint, and serve with a bowl of black olives and some fresh pita bread on the side.
14The sultry cinnamon and allspice, combined with smoky nutmeg and just a mere whiff of heat from the chili are enough to elevate a simple bulgar and tomato stuffing into the realm of the exotic in a non-intimidating way.
15Light, clean, healthy and vegetarian dinners are always easier than I expect.