Tag Archives: Eggplant

BULGUR WITH CHEESE AND EGGPLANT

Look! Pictures!

One thing about temporary living is that it makes me hesitant to buy much in the way of food products that are not highly multifunctional or will not be consumed fairly quickly.  I hate throwing things away; when we left The Oldest City in the World (our previous residence) and came to Hillside (our current city), I smuggled along over a dozen plastic baggies of spices, a plastic tub of red lentils, and two partially-used bags of bulgur and semolina.  Oh, and the obvious: tea, coffee, and sugar, because in what are already stressful situations like moving, it is best not to upset the body with unnecessary caffeine withdrawals.

Thus, meals that require few ingredients while still meeting my Ideals of Eating (another post for another day) are key.  This lovely vegetarian dish fits the bill perfectly and is easy to make in large batches.  Below is the recipe, as found in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Ms. Roden, with notes about my modifications and suggestions in italics.

Bulgur with Cheese and Eggplants

  • 1 eggplant, weighing about ¾ pound, cut into 1-inch cubes (If you wanted to up the vegetable intake, I think zucchini and green or red peppers would be nice additions)
  • Salt
  • 1 ½ large onions, sliced
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups coarse-ground bulgur, washed in cold water and drained
  • 3 ¼ cups boiling water or chicken stock
  • Pepper
  • 7-9 ounces halumi cheese, cubed (I couldn’t find halumi, so used kashkaval instead; I think mozzarella would also work fine)

Sprinkle the eggplant generously with salt and leave in a colander for ½ hour to degorge its juices.  Then rinse, and dry with paper towels.

Fry the onions in 2 tablespoons oil till golden.  Add the bulgur and stir.  Pour in the boiling water or stock, season with salt and pepper (I also added about 2 teaspoons allspice), and stir well, then cook on very low heat, with the lid on, for about 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.

Fry the cubed eggplant briefly in hot oil, turning the cubes so that they are lightly colored all over.  Lift out, and drain on paper towels.   (I am terrible at frying food—see the picture below for what happened to half my eggplant cubes.  If you had a functional oven and didn’t mind the heat, I think roasting would be a satisfactory substitution for cooking the eggplant and whatever other vegetables you might choose to include.)

Stir 4 tablespoons oil into the bulgur.  (I didn’t add any extra oil; I think it would make the dish too greasy.) Add the cheese and the eggplant and gently fold them in.  Heat through with the lid on until the cheese is soft.  Serve very hot.

For dessert?  Something cold, of course, and bonus points if it comes in groovy flowered glasses 🙂

That's a Chocolate Banana Milkshake, if you can't tell.

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STUFFED EGGPLANT FATTEH

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!

RECIPE:
(from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden)

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil
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)

Instructions:
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.