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How to Braise Stuffed Eggplant

I’m always drawn to eggplant in the summer. I think it’s the purple. It’s a color we don’t see very often at the market, but it’s so pretty. Erik doesn’t really like eggplant, though, so I have to find good recipes to make him tolerate it. This is a winner, as far as I’m concerned, and somewhere above tolerable, but below enjoyable, in Erik’s opinion. I think the combination of cooked tomatoes, smushy eggplant, herby filling, and tangy yogurt sauce is totally delicious.

The recipe is from All About Braising, which we don’t use much in the summer. There are some great vegetable-centric recipes, though, so it’s worth turning on the oven for an hour or so on a cool summer day.

Braised Eggplant with Fennel and Herbs
Serves 5 to 6

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
5 to 6 Small eggplants (about 6 inches long) Pick long, slender ones, if you can, rather than globe-shaped Hodgson Farm *
Several pinches Salt
2 TBsp Olive oil Divided
1 Small fennel bulb Chopped into a small (about 1/4 inch) dice. Remove the core if it’s large and tough. Norwich Meadows Farm *
2 cloves Garlic Chopped Keith’s Farm *
Several grinds Black pepper
5 TBsp Mixed fresh herbs Chopped. We used dill, mint, and parsley. Keith’s Farm and our fire escape*
1 quart or 28 ounces Canned whole tomatoes You could use fresh, but peel them first. Cherry Lane Farm *
1 cup Yogurt (optional) Homemade with Milk Thistle milk*
1 TBsp Dill (optional) Chopped Keith’s Farm *
1 clove Garlic (optional) Minced Keith’s Farm *


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Slice about 1/2 inch of the side of each eggplant to make the start of an eggplant “canoe”. Reserve the top slice. Use a spoon to hollow out the canoe, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Reserve the carved out eggplant.

  3. Chop the reserved top slices and the insides into approximately 1/4 inch pieces. You don’t have to be too particular or neat here.
  4. Salt the inside of each eggplant canoe generously and let them rest upside down on a paper towel while you prepare the filling.

  5. Heat 1 TBsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped fennel and sauté for a minute or two (until it’s starting to soften). Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds (until you can smell it).

  6. Add the chopped eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Turn off the stove and add the chopped herbs.

  7. Dump the canned tomatoes into a 9 by 13 baking dish (brownie pan). Add 2 tsp of olive oil, a good pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Use your hands to mush up the tomatoes and mix in the oil and seasoning. Spread it out evenly on the baking dish.

  8. Rinse the salt out of the eggplant canoes under cold running water and pat them dry with a towel. Season the inside of each canoe with a few grinds of black pepper.
  9. Fill the canoes with the eggplant, fennel, herb mixture. You might have to even it out a little after you do the first couple, because you over- or underestimate how full to make them.

  10. Place the full canoes on the bed of tomatoes. Brush the tops with 1 tsp of olive oil.

  11. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for an hour and 15 minutes.
  12. While the eggplant is baking, make the yogurt sauce. Stir the tablespoon of dill, minced clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt into the yogurt and refrigerate. This is totally optional, but I highly recommend it.
  13. After the alloted time, remove the foil and raise the temperature to 400 degrees for 15 minutes to brown the eggplant.
  14. Serve with the tomatoes and a drizzle of yogurt sauce.

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