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Stuffed Eggplants and Seattle

As I write this, I’m sitting in O’Hare International Airport, debating whether or not I should give up my seat on my flight to Seattle for a free round-trip domestic ticket (not valid to Hawaii or Alaska, non-transferable & non-refundable).  The representative from United said I would be able to sit in first class on the next available flight, which is not scheduled to depart, however, for another 12 hours. Yes, 12 hours! Since I’ve never been to Seattle, and plan on visiting Pike Place Market as soon as I arrive, literally, I kindly declined.

Although Pike Place Market is supposed to be a lot of fun, the main reason I’m going to Seattle is for the annual Web Design World conference. This is my first time going, but from what I’ve heard from friends, it’s an awesome place to go if you’re into all the web 2.0 technologies. If any food bloggers are attending the conference, or are in the area, shoot me an e-mail!

Before the flight starts boarding and I get left behind, I should tell you about these stuffed eggplants. I made these with my mom when she came up to visit me last weekend.

mom being a good sport: pomegranate molasses

I think the most difficult concept for my mom to get used to was all the photos. “Do you really have to photograph every step,” she asked.

The broth that these eggplants are cooked in, in my opinion, is what makes the dish really special. It is flavored with lemon juice, dried mint, some tomato paste and, one of my favorite ingredients, pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses, or  دبس رمان , is a dark, tangy, slightly acidic molasses made from fresh pomegranates, which are extremely abundant throughout the Middle East, especially Syria. You can probably find it at your local Whole Foods, specialty store, or definitely in any Mediterranean/Middle Eastern market. note: do not try and use the regular molasses for ginger snaps, for instance, it won’t taste the same.

mise en place

The mise en place for this dish is pretty simple, but note that the eggplants I used here are tiny. The smaller the eggplants are, the less bitter they will be, but also, proportionally speaking, the better they are for stuffing with rice and meat.

the smell of freshly ground allspice makes me happy

If you’ve been following the past couple Middle Eastern recipes I’ve posted, you’ll notice each of them is flavored with a bit of freshly ground allspice. As I mentioned in those posts, allspice among of the most common spices used in Middle Eastern cooking, second probably to salt.

prepping eggplants for stuffing

Nothing in this dish, except maybe the stem of the eggplants, goes to waste. You can use an apple corer to create the cavities in the eggplants and then keep carving out any excess flesh with a small knife. Some people will leave a little more flesh than I did in the photo, but that becomes a matter of personal preference.

meat & rice mixture go in

When you’re stuffing the eggplants make sure not to pack the rice and meat mixture because once the rice cooks, it will expand. I leave about 1 inch from the opening of the eggplant empty, and then squeeze the eggplant lightly so as to distribute the meat filling equally.

use carrots to prevent the eggplants from burning

The carrots on the bottom will provide the perfect protection to keep your hard work from turning into charcoal. They’ll also add flavor to the broth, and a beautiful color for presentation.

mahshee (محشي)

I should clarify that the term mahshee, in Arabic, literally means “stuffed.” In this case I used eggplants, but that’s only one example. In the Middle East (and throughout other parts of the Mediterranean, like Italy, Greece and Turkey) this preparation is common with other vegetables as well, like peppers, zucchini, grape leaves, swiss chard leaves, and the list goes on from there.

a peak inside

I actually did not beat the clock and had to board the flight before finishing the post. I am now in my hotel room in Seattle, but will make sure to post post the recipe for mahshee once I get back to DC.

Stuffed Eggplants

yields 4-6 servings

Components

  • 6-8 baby eggplants
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb rice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste, divided
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1-2 tbsp ice-cold water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • water, to cover eggplants
  • carrots, thickly sliced

Putting them all together

  1. Wash rice in plenty of water and set aside.
  2. Mix rice, meat, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, butter, allspice and salt together. Sprinkle in some ice-cold water to keep the mix from sticking to your hands. You want it to remain somewhat fluffy.*
  3. With an apple corer and a paring knife carefully hollow out the eggplants, making sure not to puncture any of the sides or the ends of the eggplants (save the eggplant “meat”).
  4. Stuff the eggplants with the rice and meat mixture, stopping about 1 inch from the top. Lightly squeeze the eggplant to remove any excess meat mixture that pours out from the hole.
  5. Scatter the sliced carrots and carved eggplant “meat” across the bottom of a large pot. This prevents the eggplants from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  6. Neatly position all the stuffed eggplants inside the pot.
  7. Mix the lemon juice, dried mint, pomegranate molasses, minced garlic, the two remaining tbsp of tomato paste and an extra sprinkling of salt (to taste) to make the broth. Pour over the eggplants and cover what’s left of the eggplants with water.
  8. Set a heavy (heat-resistant) plate over the eggplants to weigh them down.
  9. If you have any left over filling, set it on aluminum foil and crimp the edges lightly to form a small pouch. Set the pouch over the place and make sure that the pouch is at least half-way covered in the broth (if not, add more water).
  10. Place the lid over the pot leaving a little hole for steam through vent through. Cook over medium, medium-high heat for 45-60 minutes and enjoy.

notes: Mix the meat and rice mixture with the tip of your fingers to avoid compacting the mixture – you want to mix, not knead.

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Posted in entrees, Middle Eastern, recipe, savory by Antonio Tahhan on July 19th, 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


24 Responses to “Stuffed Eggplants and Seattle”

Dana Says:

Matt’s in the Market gets all the press, but I would highly recommend Chez Shea. They do a prix fixe menu that is reasonable and generous. Adorable little place and a nice view. Also, Place Pigalle or Maximillien’s have million dollar views and decent food. At least go for a cocktail!

Soma Says:

This is a very new way to stuff eggplants. I have never cored it! very clever idea & a great idea to use carrots too.

irina @ PastryPal Says:

Your food is so tempting. I especially love things with pomegranate molasses and tend to use it in pastry-making recipes once in a while.

joey Says:

This is what I love about your blog — the wonderful dishes I discover! I have never come across this dish before though I love all stuffed veg dishes from the med/middle east…plus I love eggplants! Looking forward to the recipe…hope you are enjoying your trip!

Elizabeth Says:

Hey I finally got to look at your site! It’s great! I could make a vegetarian version of this. It looks delicious! I think I found that fish you were telling me about. It is called the barreleye fish? It has a transparent head. It is really scary and I hope when I dive I never encounter one!
news.nationalgeographic.com/…/ photo2.html
That is the link so you can tell me if that is the fish. There is this place called Beth’s Cafe and they have an interesting food challenge that I think sounds fun. You have to eat a 12 egg omelette. I saw it on Travel Channel one time. Well I hope you are enjoying your trip!

Elizabeth Says:

Hi again I just found another fish that could be what you were talking about. I am really interested in this fish if you can’t tell.
The link is

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/mola.html

It is the Mola or Ocean Sunfish.

Marc @ NoRecipes Says:

This is one of my favourite Mediterranean dishes. REALLY looking forward to seeing the recipe. Enjoy Seattle!

nina Says:

For some reason I have not been to this site for a while and I will have to fix that pronto, pronto……wow, your site is a beauty and there are just so many things that I want to try!!!!

Joumana Accad Says:

I absolutely enjoy your posts every time! your pics are fabulous and the recipes are so clearly explained… Bravo!!

Bren Says:

i love the idea of a stuffed eggplant, seeing as the stuffing possibilities are endless. nice to be back here. had been a long minute! glad ur well. Enjoy Seattle!

Peter Says:

Tony, I love that you stuffed the eggplants from the stem-end. I’m gonna have to try your method.

Hélène Says:

Can’t wait to see your Seattle pics. I’m going soon. Great recipe, I guess I can use it to stuff anything.

Doc Says:

$10 for a teeny tiny bottle of Pomegranate Molasses…
Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s totally worth it.
Speaking of… I just brought back some pomegranates picked fresh from my dad’s tree back home… If only I knew how to molassessise them!

Can’t wait to try this dish. I have every ingredient bar eggplants that are NOT the size of my head.

Hope you’re well, mate. =)

Marta Says:

I adore stuffed eggplants! I just can’t stop myself from eating the entire batch! They get so creamy and delicious, and your version sounds so flavourful!
I’m glad you had fun in Seattle, but I have to say, declining a first class ticket takes strength :)

Joe Says:

Tony, OMG you forgot the garlic cloves (although the pic showed them). My Mom use to throw in a dozen cloves with their skin still on with in the layered pot. When you sit down to eat squeeze these cloves over the eggplant like you would do with roasted garlic, delicious. Mother also had a cooking stone (a rock she picked up of a beach on Lake Michigan) she would place over the weighted plate every time she did Mahashee. Excellent tasting dish, never used pomegranate molasses in cooking before. Thanks

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Hi Joe, thanks for pointing that out. I corrected the recipe and added the garlic cloves :) The way my family makes mahshee is by mincing the garlic cloves and adding them to the broth that the eggplants cook in. We tend to leave them whole for dishes like stuffed grape leaves. Next time I make mahshee with eggplants I will try out your family’s method with the whole garlic cloves – thanks for sharing that!

Ann Says:

Wow, these look amazing! Can I borrow your mom for awhile? :) I’ve had stuffed everything but not eggplants, I will definitely have to give these a try. Thanks!

MM Says:

I adore stuffed eggplants! I just can’t stop myself from eating the entire batch! They get so creamy and delicious, and your version sounds so flavourful!
I’m glad you had fun in Seattle, but I have to say, declining a first class ticket takes strength :)

krista Says:

hello

do you put stem back on top of eggplants or do you let the broth enter the eggplants stuffing as they cook?

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Krista: Good question. The eggplants should be cooked without the stems. Remember to place a heavy heat-resistant plate over the eggplants as they cook. I hope this helps!

valentina Says:

i’m looking for a recipe for a dish that goes something like this. Can’t remember if it was Zucchini or eggplant, stuffed with ground lamb, onions, lightly toasted pinenuts in a kind of a shkrieh(yogurt) sauce. The Zucchini/eggplant is hollowed then fried in olive oil. Then stuffed with the lamb, onions and pinenuts. My grandmother used to call it the kings meal. seved with rice. Can you please e-mail me the way this dish is made. can’t remember how it’s made but remember that i soooooo loved it. thanks.

Gladys Mekel Says:

hola tony como estas espero que bien en estos momentos estoy enseñandole a la novia de mi hermano Samir tu pagina y esta fascinada en cualquier momento te va a escribir y te pedira consejos para cocinar se llama Francis Macias sabes que te estoy esperando por aca ojala nos puedas dedicar estar un tiempo con nosotros te extraño mucho un besote y que dios te bendiga siempre tqm

Middle-eastern Stuffed Aubergine with Spicy Lamb | oiyoufood Says:

[...] most authentic recipes for stuffed aubergine I found where published in these two beautiful blogs: (http://www.antoniotahhan.com/2009/07/19/stuffed-eggplants-and-seattle/) and (http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/10/lebanese-style-stuffed-eggplant/) . However, as perfect as [...]

Ninveh Says:

My mother taught me this when I was young. She was born in Iraq but her family came from Syria. I learned both the Syrian and Iraqi way very delicious!


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