Stuffed Eggplant

Over the past few years, eggplant have grown exceedingly well in my garden. This is a good thing, given how much Jill and I both like it. Experimenting with new ways to prepare eggplant, I came up with this simple, delicious stuffed eggplant recipe.

The first step in preparing the stuffed eggplant is to roast the eggplant. Slice two eggplant in half lengthwise. Season each of the four halves with salt and pepper. Drizzle the eggplant liberally with olive oil and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. In a 400 degree oven, roast the eggplant for 20-25 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant have a nice golden brown color. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let them cool.

Roasting Eggplant
Roasted Eggplant

While the eggplant cools, brown a pound of ground beef in a skillet. I used ground beef because I made this while Jill was out of town. I’ll probably make it with ground turkey next time. Stir in a can of diced tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic and oregano). Use a spoon to scoop the roasted eggplant flesh out of the eggplant skins, being careful to avoid tearing the eggplant skin. Mix the eggplant flesh into the ground beef. Season the mixture with about two teaspoons of Turkish seasoning (or a blend of salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, and coriander).

Browning beef and stuffing eggplant
Stuffed Eggplant

Crumble a little bit of goat cheese (about an 0.5 oz) into the mixture and stir to help bind the ingredients together. Stuff the eggplant skins with the mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake the stuffed eggplant in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mozzarella melts and bubbles.

Stuffed Eggplant
Stuffed Eggplant

Although this recipe was completely an experiment to begin with, it turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve prepared in a while. The meal was quick, tasty, and only used a couple of ingredients. The most time consuming part of this dish is waiting for the eggplant to roast, but you can save time by prepping the other ingredients during this time. The Turkish seasonings infuses the ground beef with flavor and complements the eggplant. With several more eggplant currently growing in my garden, I will be making this recipe again and will continue to experiment with new eggplant recipes.

Pizza Worthy of a Blog Post

Knowing that the streets would be congested with traffic during homecoming, Jill and I opted to cook dinner at home instead of going out to eat. Stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work, I thought “pizza would be a highly appropriate Friday night cuisine.” So, I picked up a few essential ingredients and headed home to make what I deemed “pizza worthy of a blog post” and what Jill called “better than take-out pizza.”

Although most people probably would not begin a post about pizza with photos of eggplant, Jill and I both view eggplant as an essential pizza topping. We were rather disappointed when our favorite local pizzaria, Decent Pizza, dropped eggplant from their menu. Thankfully, I had these two baby eggplants growing in the backyard garden.

Baby eggplant
Baby eggplant

With an immediate need for the eggplants, the two baby eggplant were picked before they had a chance to grow to their full sizes (this pizza  wasn’t going to sit around waiting for the eggplant to grow), diced finely, mixed with two cloves of garlic (minced) and sauteed in olive oil.

Eggplant with garlic
Eggplant with garlic

When soft, I took the baby eggplant morsels off of the heat let them await their destiny–a kind of purgatory where tender eggplant wait to ascend to the realm of deliciousness.

Sauteed eggplant with garlic
Sauteed eggplant with garlic

Wanting a slightly more rustic taste for the pizza, I opted for sliced Italian style chicken sausage instead of the traditional pepperoni (or the slightly less traditional turkey pepperoni).

Italian-style chicken sausage
Italian-style chicken sausage

Although I enjoy making my own pizza dough, that activity is usually relegated to the weekends when I have more time. So, this Friday night masterpiece make good use of the pre-made 5 grain pizza dough from the Publix bakery.

Publix Italian Pizza Dough
Publix Italian Pizza Dough

After rolling it out on a floured surface, I put the pizza dough on a baking sheet and got ready to assemble the pizza.

Pizza dough on a baking sheet
Pizza dough on a baking sheet

In addition to making my own dough, I occasionally like to make my own pizza sauce. Again, this is an activity typically reserved for a weekend. Tomatoes are also not currently in season. So, I used my favorite canned pizza sauce (which I opened with the ridiculously cute can opener pictured below).

Pizza sauce
Pizza sauce

While tomatoes are not in season, I do have plenty of basil and oregano growing in my garden. So, I jazzed the pizza up by adding a layer of fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano on top of the pizza sauce.

Fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano
Fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano

Over the fresh herbs, I added mozzarella cheese, sliced baby portobello mushrooms, the sliced chicken sausage, and the eggplant morsels.

Pizza toppings
Pizza toppings

After baking for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, the golden cheese oozed over the crust while the aroma from the mushrooms, sausage, eggplant, and herbs elicited a kind of Pavlovian response from both Jill and me.

Baked pizza
Baked pizza

Served with a simple green salad with Annie’s goddess salad dressing, this better than take-out pizza rounded out the week with a blog worthy meal.

Pizza and salad
Pizza and salad

Shrimp and Eggplant Gumbo

I found a recipe for Budweiser Braised Shrimp in the Tallahassee Junior League’s most recent cookbook, A Thyme to Celebrate. I’ve been craving something like this, but wasn’t in the mood for this exact recipe, so I made up my own dish inspired by Budweiser Braised Shrimp recipe.

To make shrimp and eggplant gumbo, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1lb large white shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 14.5oz cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce (or a hot pepper sauce)
  • 12oz light beer (I used Bud Light Lime for this recipe, though I don’t usually drink this)
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1/2 tsp plus a pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp file’ powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 servings rice, prepared

Prepare the vegetables by cutting the eggplant into 1/2 in cubes, mincing the garlic, dicing the onion, and chopping the peppers. I used an orange and a yellow pepper for color and because Jill doesn’t care for green bell peppers.

Chopped and diced vegetables
Chopped and diced vegetables

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the eggplant and cook for five minutes, stirring often to ensure that the eggplant cooks evenly.

Eggplant in cast iron enamel pot
Cooking the eggplant

Add the chopped peppers and continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes.

Diced peppers are added to the eggplant
Add the diced peppers

Add the stewed tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Turn the heat down to low and let the vegetables simmer while you prepare the shrimp.

The tomatoes are added to the eggplant and peppers
Adding the tomatoes

While the vegetables simmer, add a teaspoon of olive oil to a skillet and warm over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. The shrimp should turn pink.

Peeled and deveined shrimp in a skillet
Peeled and deveined shrimp

Add the quartered limes and the sriracha sauce to the shrimp. Cook for another minute.

Shrimp, limes, and hot sauce in a skillet
Add the limes and hot sauce to the shrimp

Add the light beer and simmer for five minutes.

Simmering the shrimp
Simmering the shrimp

When the shrimp are finished cooking, drain off any remaining liquid and discard the limes. Add the shrimp to the vegetables and mix gently. Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the file’ powder to thicken the gumbo. Serve over rice.

Shrimp and eggplant gumbo plated
Shrimp and eggplant gumbo

While this is not the typical Louisiana-style gumbo that most people are familiar with, the shrimp, eggplant, and tomatoes complement each other well. The rice is especially good when it absorbs the juices from the gumbo.

Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta Bake

This dish is a recipe I created based on several ingredients that I happened to have and needed to use. I harvested three Japanese eggplant and a bowl full of heirloom tomatoes from my garden and wanted to use them while they were still fresh. Also, while visiting our friends Joshua and Erika Spence over the 4th of July, we stopped at the Winter Park farmers market and bought whole wheat mafaldine pasta from the Pappardelle’s Pasta stand. I had been waiting for the perfect time to use the pasta and decided not to wait any longer.

Ingredients
The ingredients

To make this dish, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 3 zucchini, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • Tomatoes (I used three medium-sized tomatoes and five small, slightly larger than cherry tomato-sized, tomatoes), quartered
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow pepper), chopped
  • 8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 26oz jar pasta sauce (I used Field Day Organic Roasted Garlic pasta sauce)
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta (I used mafadine, but a farfalle, ziti, or rotini would work well too)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onion and garlic in about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Then add the eggplant and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes.

Eggplant
Eggplant fresh from my garden

Add the diced tomatoes to the pan and cook for another five minutes, stirring gently to distribute the heat. Add salt and pepper.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes from my garden

Stir in the jar of pasta sauce and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the vegetable mixture for 10 to 15 minutes minutes, stirring occasionally.

Vegetable mixture
The vegetable mixture before adding the pasta sauce

Prepare the pasta according the the directions on the package while the vegetable mixture simmers.

Pasta
Dried whole wheat mafaldine

When the pasta has finished cooking, add the pasta to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and cover with the vegetable mixture. Stir to mix well.

Pasta and veggies in a baking dish
The pasta and veggies in a baking dish

Top the pasta and veggies with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Mozzarella Cheese Topping
Mozzarella Cheese Topping

After adding the mozzarella cheese topping, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese turns a light golden brown color.

The cheese has turned golden brown
Bake until the cheese turns a light golden brown color

Serve and enjoy.

Finished dinner on a plate
Enjoy!

This dish is reminiscent of a spaghetti casserole, but the tomatoes make the sauce is a bit more vibrant than I typically find in a casserole and the whole wheat pasta complements the dish well without dominating the flavor. The whole wheat pasta also holds up well with the hearty sauce and vegetables.

Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

Back in college, Jill’s favorite food was broccoli. As noted in a previous post, Jill’s current favorite food is eggplant. This current favorite is followed closely by tofu. In honor of these favorite foods, I created this stir fry.

Ingredients
The Ingredients

To make this stir-fry, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into small cubes
  • 14 oz extra firm tofu, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and diced into small cubes
  • 6 oz broccoli florets
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Cilantro (optional)
  • Lemongrass (optional)
  • Cashews
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil
Extra Firm Tofu
Extra Firm Tofu

Although I have a well seasoned wok, I always have better luck cooking tofu in a non-stick pan, so I made this stir-fry in a large non-stick pan instead of a wok.

To make this stir-fry, first cook the the tofu: heat 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add four cloves of minced garlic and about 1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped lemongrass stalk. I added the fresh lemongrass because I have it growing in my garden, but it can be left out of this recipe. Let the garlic and lemongrass infuse flavor into the oil for a minute or two, then, with a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and lemongrass from the oil and set aside in a small bowl.  Gently sauté the tofu cubes in the flavor-infused oil until they turn golden brown.  Once golden brown in color, remove the tofu from the skillet and set aside.

Golden Brown Tofu
Golden Brown Tofu

Add the broccoli florets to the pan and stir-fry for about two minutes.  Add the eggplant and cook together for about three minutes before adding the yellow pepper. Stir-fry the broccoli, eggplant, and yellow pepper together for another two minutes until the vegetables are cooked but the broccoli and pepper are still slightly crispy. Add the garlic and lemongrass mixture and the tofu to the vegetable mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine three teaspoons of Sriracha sauce, six teaspoons of low sodium soy sauce, six teaspoons of water, and one teaspoon of sesame oil. Add the sauce to the stir-fry mixture and stir gently to combine.  Top with a chiffonade of basil and cilantro and cook until the sauce is absorbed, about two or three minutes.

Stir Fry
Stir-fried vegetables and tofu

Serve the stir-fry over brown rice and garnish with cashews, basil, and sriracha sauce. Since the sriracha sauce is somewhat spicy, I added a little more to mine than I did to Jill’s.

Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry
Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Jill’s favorite food is eggplant. At least it was last time I checked. Combining her love for eggplant with her childhood stories of watching David the Gnome while eating tomato soup, I ventured to make this recipe. I also had the good fortune of being given some fresh eggplant my parents grew.

This recipe begins with ingredients shown below:

Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock
Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock

The two japanese style eggplants from my parents garden were supplemented with an Italian style eggplant from Publix. Olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro (from my garden) and goat cheese are not shown in the photo.

After slicing the veggies in half, they were all seared in a little olive oil before going into the oven to roast.

Searing the eggplants

After about 25 minutes in a 350 degree (F) oven, the roasted veggies should be caramelized nicely. After making this recipe the first time, I could definitely roast more garlic. Much more garlic.

Roasted Veggies
Roasted Veggies

Before pureeing the vegetables in a food processor, the eggplant pulp should be pulled away from the skin. If your vegetables have roasted enough, this should be easy to do. Blend the roasted vegetables in a food processor with some of the chicken broth until smooth. Pour the puree into a pot over medium heat. At this point, it probably will not look overly appetizing and will resemble baby food like the photo below.

Roasted Vegetable Puree
Roasted Vegetable Puree

As the puree heats up, gradually add more of the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. I ended up using a total of four cups of chicken stock, including the stock used while blending the vegetables. After incorporating the stock, the soup looked like this:

While the soup simmered, I decided to add goat cheese. I lightly browned the goat cheese in a small amount of olive oil, but would probably add unheated goat cheese next time.

Warmed goat cheese
Warmed Goat cheese

To finish things off, I added cilantro from my garden to the soup as a garnish and served.

Soup in bowls
Soup and Goat Cheese Garnished with Cilantro

This recipe was adapted from “Charred Eggplant-Tomato Soup with Cilantro” from Cat Cora’s cookbook Cooking from the Hip.