I’m back! I had a bit of a hard time food-wise this winter and early spring. After my knee surgery in January, what started out as a simple indulgence in some “medicinal” M&M’s, quickly lead the way back into that vicious sugar/bad carb cycle. This is particularly bad for me because I have discovered that sugar and/or refined carbs really wreak havoc with my moods and ability to deal with stress. A depressed/stressed Tricia is a sugar craving beast. Very bad stuff. I become the hormonal equivalent of the Incredible Hulk — prone to crankiness and busting out of my clothes. I quickly gained 20 pounds and was spiralling out of control. Fortunately I realized how horrible I was feeling and dragged my butt back to Crossfit and dusted off my kitchen gadgetry and got back to cooking good stuff. I’ve been eating pretty clean for a few weeks again and already feel 1,000% better. Moods are better. Sleep cycle is normalizing. Lost 11 pounds. Let’s hear it for happy hormones! If any of you are reading this and haven’t tried Paleo, do yourself a favor and try it for 30 days. Even if you think the diet is whack (what do you mean grains are the devil?!?), give it a whirl, see how you feel after. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G what a difference it can make. I’ve been kicking myself in the ass for wasting 3 months.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe…
Paleo Stuffed Eggplant – Lebanese Style
So you guys know my food tastes are all over the place. I’ve dabbled in Indian a few times on here already, but I haven’t messed with Middle Eastern. Mostly because there was a fabulous Lebanese deli just down the street, and I liked the food there so much that it wasn’t worth the effort of trying to reproduce it. However, they recently changed owners and switched cooks. After a few marginal meals, I sadly have decided it just isn’t quite the same. On the bright side, now I have no choice but to learn how to do it myself. For my first attempt, I thought I’d try a stuffed eggplant.
Most Lebanese versions of stuffed eggplant work with the small baby size eggplant. I know they have a name/type, but I don’t know what it is — baby eggplant works for me. The grocery store only had the larger size eggplants in the organic section, so I went with the big ones. (I’m really trying to eat organic veggies where I can). I couldn’t really find a single recipe online that I liked, so I cobbled together a couple and added a few touches of my own. The result was pretty good. I think I may tweak it a bit next time. Maybe add some parsley to the stuffing and possibly add some additional cinnamon and allspice to the meat a few hours before cooking to up the flavor (I really love the taste of cinnamon with ground beef in middle eastern dishes). I’ll update the recipe with future experiments. Feel free to post your additions in the comments section and let me know how yours comes out.
- 2 Medium-ish Eggplants
- About 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (These really add a little something something and I highly recommend not omitting them)
- 1 pound ground beef or ground lamb (grass-fed preferably). I used beef.
- 1 Large onion – finely chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves – chopped
- 1 – 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted)
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon (fresh ground is best if you have a spice mill)
- salt & pepper to taste
- chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut stem end off of each eggplant and cut in half long-ways. Scoop out most of the flesh, leaving about 1/3 – 1/2 inch of flesh inside the skin. This was the first time I’ve actually hollowed an eggplant, so I didn’t have my method perfected, but I found cutting with a paring knife to be the most effective for me. Coarsely chop the eggplant innards and set aside in a bowl.
Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside of the eggplant shells and place them upside down on a paper towel to drain for about a half hour. Being pretty much an eggplant virgin, I had to call my friend Erica to find out why. Apparently the salt draws some of the bitterness out of the eggplant. She actually soaks her halves in salt water before scooping out the innards. I was happy with the sprinkle and drain method.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast until lightly brown. Watch these. They tend to cook very quickly — you don’t want burned nuts. When done scoop them out with a slotted spoon (leaving oil behind) and set aside.
Add garlic and onions to the pan and saute until translucent.
Add ground meat and eggplant. Cook until the meat is done and the eggplant is tender (about 10 minutes). Add can of tomatoes (juice and all), pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper (I also plan to add some parsley next time. I needed a little something extra). Stir to mix and continue cooking for a couple of minutes to let the flavors blend.
Divide mixture evenly into eggplant shells and place in a baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes until shells are tender. Garnish with parsley, if desired.