It has been blazingly hot lately, with temperatures over 100 for the past 10 days straight and predicted to hit 109 F on Monday. Neither of us have had much appetite nor any desire to light the stove or oven, so we’ve been eating a lot of salads and my imitation gazpacho, which is basically a cold tomato-based soup into which I throw whatever vegetables I have in the refrigerator as well as the occasional bean for a little protein. Spaniards are turning in their graves.
But Hungry Husband rarely considers soup-and-salad a satisfying meal (indeed, the combination is scorned as “girl food”), so I try to intersperse those days with “real” food, usually cooked, occasionally including meat. One thing I had been wanting to try for some time, that I finally got around to this past week, is Stuffed Eggplant Fatteh.
There are multiple versions of Fatteh throughout the Middle East, varying by country. This is a Syrian-style fatteh, apparently a specialty of Damascus according to The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden, from whence came the recipe. It was a little bit of work, but the final result was pretty extraordinary. I thought I had made enough to last us two meals (after all, the recipe says it serves 6 and I made about a batch and a half), but after our first dinner there were only two little eggplants and a wee spoonful of tomato sauce remaining. That is the sign of a happy Hungry Husband!
(from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden)
12 ounces ground beef or lamb
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
½ c. pine nuts
6 small eggplants (3 ½ – 4 ½ inches long), weighing about 1 ¾ pounds
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (optional, but I highly recommend it!)
2 pita breads
2 c. plain yoghurt at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
For the eggplant stuffing, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a skillet. Put in the meat and cook for about 10 minutes, adding salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice, and crushing the meat with a fork and turning it over until it is cooked and the liquid has evaporated.
In a small skillet, fry the pine nuts in a drop of oil, shaking the pan to brown them lightly all over. Stir half the pine nuts in the meat.
Wash and dry the eggplants and hollow the out with a corer. Fill them with the meat-and-pine nut mixture.
Make the tomato sauce in a wide pan or baking pan. Put in the tomatoes with the sugar, a little salt and pepper, and, if you like, the pomegranate molasses. Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. Put in the eggplants, and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, or until the eggplants are very soft, turning them over once.
Open out the pita breads, cutting around them with scissors or a serrated knife, and separating them into halves. Toast them under the broiler until they are crisp and lightly browned.
Mix the yoghurt with the garlic, if using.
Just before serving, assemble the different components in a wide and deep serving dish. Break the toast into small pieces with your hands into the bottom of the dish. Take the eggplants out of the tomato sauce, and pour the tomato sauce over the toast, which will become soft and bloated. Pour the yoghurt all over, and arrange the stuffed eggplants on top. Then sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts.