by Tessa Kiros
There are so many ways of making stuffed eggplants. Here they are boiled first, which makes the dish a bit lighter. But you could also roast or fry the eggplants before stuffing them. Serve these with a big salad, bread, and maybe some light pickles and olives. You could use a lighter-flavored cheese, such as mozzarella or cacciotta, in place of the feta here.
• 8 tablespoons Olive Oil
• 2 Garlic Cloves, lightly crushed with the flat of a knife
• 3 Cups Tomato Sauce
• 4 small long Eggplants, rinsed
• 1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon Paprika
• 1 pound Ground Beef
• 3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
• 1 cup diced or Crumbled Feta Cheese
• 4 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan with one of the garlic cloves. When you can smell the garlic, add the tomato sauce and i cup of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it is cooked and still rather liquid.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Cut off the stalk from each eggplant and then cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon (a pointed one is easiest), so that you have a boat-shaped, thin shell. Chop up the flesh and set aside. Boil the eggplant boats for about 10 minutes in the pan of water, testing them with a fork. They should be soft but still in shape. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and garlic in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the eggplant flesh, celery, and paprika, and sauté over medium heat until it is softened and very lightly golden. Add the ground meat and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the meat is lightly golden, seasoning lightly with salt. Break up any clusters of ground meat with a wooden spoon. Mix in 1 cup of the cooked tomato sauce, cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, and then remove from the heat to cool slightly. If your pan is big enough, mix in the Parmesan, feta, and parsley — if not, mix it all together in a larger bowl. Check the seasoning. Remove the garlic clove from the tomato sauce.
Ladle tomato sauce onto the bottom of a baking pan to a depth of 3/4 inch. Use a pan that is large enough to fit all the eggplants fairly compactly in a single layer. Fill the eggplant boats with meat filling, patting it in well with your hands, but don't make it too compact. Arrange the eggplants on top of the tomato sauce and splash the tops with the rest of the tomato sauce, but don't drown them.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (or longer if necessary), until the sauce is bubbling up and a little bit of a golden crust has formed on the top in places. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving. These are also good served at room temperature.