Sheikh El Mahshi
stuffed baby eggplant
RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)
Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski
Sheikh means an “Arabic leader” or “patriarch,” and although this recipe uses small, adorable eggplants, the flavor is as mighty as any sheikh! I get very excited whenever I come across these mini eggplants, and love to stuff them with this mouthwatering lamb–pine nut filling. Although my Sheikh El Mahshi is a more involved recipe, it’s completely worth the extra TLLC (tender loving Lebanese care). Whether you dress it up for a formal dinner, or serve it home-style as a comforting casserole, Sheikh El Mahshi will become a favorite for sure.
MAKES 24 EGGPLANTS (6 TO 8 MAIN-COURSE SERVINGS)
24 baby Indian eggplants, at room temperature, washed and peeled
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons plus 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large Vidalia onion, finely minced
1 pound ground lamb
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon Sab’ah Baharat (Seven-Spice)
1⁄3 cup pine nuts
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
5 vine-ripened tomatoes, finely diced
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Gently remove the crown stem of each eggplant while retaining the small spiral stem. Then, using a small-sharp knife, create a thin but deep (without going all the way through) vertical slit down the center of each eggplant leaving 1⁄2 inch from the top and bottom. Set the eggplants aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat until the butter sizzles. Place 12 of the eggplants in the pan, season with 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt and brown evenly until all sides are golden brown. Transfer onto a baking sheet.
Repeat the process with the remaining 12 eggplants, using 3 more tablespoons of butter and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt.
Transfer the eggplants to the baking sheet, turn off heat, but keep the pan on the stovetop for later use. Allow the eggplants to rest while you prepare the stuffing.
In the same sauté pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until slightly translucent. Add the ground lamb, increase the heat to high, and cook, stirring continuously, until the meat is cooked through; continuously stirring the meat will decrease the amount of liquid it releases. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the allspice, and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the seven spice. Stir until the seasonings are entirely incorporated.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Toss the pine nuts until they are nicely toasted and turn golden brown. Transfer the pine nuts to the meat mixture and turn the heat off under both pans. Add 2 tablespoons of the parsley to the meat mixture and set it aside.
Drizzle the bottom of a medium 9 x 13-inch casserole with the olive oil. Spread half of the diced tomatoes on the bottom of the casserole. Using your fingers, split apart each eggplant to create an opening large enough to receive the filling. Stuff 1 tablespoon of the filling into each eggplant and, using the back of your thumb, gently press the filling into the bottom. Take another tablespoon of the filling and stuff this over the rest tablespoon of filling so that it sits on top of each eggplant. You will have about 2 cups left of stuffing. Place the stuffed eggplants into the prepared casserole, packing them closely in horizontal rows, then cover with the remaining diced tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with the remaining meat mixture and season with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon allspice and 1⁄2 teaspoon of seven spice. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley.
Place the casserole on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Turn off heat, remove the casserole from the oven, and set aside to cool for a couple minutes before serving.
Serve hot over rice-vermicelli pilaf Rez b Shayriyeh.
Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.
RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)
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