Thursday, March 30, 2006

Artichoke-Stuffed Eggplant

Night before last Chris had band practice, and so in lieu of a big dinner I made myself a nice bowl of Lemon Risotto (substituting a shallot for the leek). While I stirred and stirred the creamy rice, I reflected on the time when an evening alone meant popcorn and television for dinner. I guess I'm really changing my attitude towards food--it's not just something to make to share with another person, it's something to feed and nurture your own self. I still watched some TV, though. Not everything changes.

Last night I was nearly sure I wouldn't have anything to write about, certainly no new recipe. We have almost no food in the house, and lacking the funds for a big grocery trip, I was nearly sure we were heading for fried egg sandwiches, which is fine, but nothing worth sharing with you guys. And then, what did I spy? A rogue eggplant in the vegetable drawer, completely forgotten about but miraculously unscathed. After a quick survey of the nearly bare pantry, I was able to cobble together this dish--half Nigella Lawson's Soft and Sharp Involtini, and half my own creation.

How was it? I don't know, but Chris liked it. By the time I was done with all of the slicing, sauteing, rolling, etc. I had developed a sour stomach feeling and ended up laying down on the couch and not eating dinner! The meal looked lovely, though, and I think it would make a very nice side dish to a roasted piece of meat. I will say, though, that I am as sick of Italian-inspired dishes as I am of baking right now.

Artichoke-Stuffed Eggplant
serves 2-3

for the sauce:

1 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch or two dried oregano
pinch or two dried basil
dash sugar
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet with a lid. Add garlic and shallot and saute until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes and spices, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Using a food processor or blender, puree about .75 of the tomato mixture--you're looking for a slightly chunky sauce. Add back to the pan, stir to combine, and set aside.

for the stuffing:

1 medium eggplant
oil for frying
half a can of artichoke hearts, chopped
2 Tbsp bulgar wheat
dried oregano
dried basil
1 egg
.25 cup feta cheese crumbles (more for topping)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Slice the eggplant in thin slices from stem to tip. Discard the two slices with the skin side out. Heat a good layer of oil in a saute pan to near smoking. Working in batches, fry the eggplant slices on each side until beginning to brown. You will need to add more oil periodically, as the eggplant will soak it up. Drain eggplant on several layers of paper toweling for at least half an hour.

Place bulgar wheat, and a pinch each of the basil and oregano, in a small bowl. Pour boiling water generously over the mixture and then cover with a plate. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes. After it has soaked and plumped up, pour into a fine meshed sieve and let drain. Before mixing with the rest of the stuffing, press to remove as much water as possible.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chopped artichoke, wheat, feta cheese, egg, and herbs in a bowl, mix well with a fork. Lay a slice of eggplant in front of you, with the fatter, bulbous end closest to you. Using an ice cream scooper or a large spoon, place a dollop of the stuffing at the end near you (it will be loose). Carefully roll the eggplant over--you will likely need to replace stuffing as it falls out. Gently place in a small baking pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices--you are doing well to get six good rolls out of one eggplant.

Pour tomato sauce evenly over eggplant rolls. Sprinkle generously with feta cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving, it shouldn't be piping hot. Maybe I should test my stomach and go try the leftovers out, this is sounding pretty good!

Stay tuned tonight to see if I make something out of nothing. I can't wait to get past end of the month expenses and have the money for a big grocery trip!

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