The weather has been a big and bright bouquet of variations this past week. We’ve had lots of sun, lots of rain and lots of wind. I took a couple of days off work – just in time for carnival, which always rolls through Cologne with huge force. It’s either love it or leave it with carnival, and I had made plans for a couple of free days with intention to get done lots of things whilst not missing out on important stuff at work. In the end, I dressed up as a housewife from the fifties (think Mad Men) and celebrated carnival in a black polka dot petticoat, with fake eyelashes and the mother of all pearl necklaces around my neck (sorry, there is just a crappy cell-phone shot to serve as proof for the curious). But no, I didn’t get much done from my to-do list. I’ve decided not to judge myself too hard on this one, because apparently I was in dire need of just doing whatever I felt like at a precise moment, rather than what would have actually been sensible… I should add that I lost a day during which I did nothing but recuperating. Guess who is getting old?!
Anyway, today’s recipe has been in my “to publish-on-the-blog”-list for a while. It’s one of the more amazing vegan recipes I’ve had, and one of the most wonderful dishes you can do with eggplants. Plus, it goes perfectly with the weather: it’s exciting and fun and even the ingredients on their own are pretty! My mother made something similar (with egg included in the filling) out of a magazine a couple of years ago and I have replicated it many times since. This Oriental-Style Filled Eggplant is not the simplest or quickest of dishes you’ll ever make, but the texture and flavor are very unique and totally worth the extra effort. It’s perfect for a weekend lunch and also for guests. You can prepare them, filling included and store them in your fridge. Just pop them in the oven half an hour before dinner and voilà, fancy main dish for dinner!
The original recipe calls for dates, and I had purchased some to make this dish, but I then opted to leave them out and add fresh pomegranate seeds instead. One of the better decisions of my life! You can serve these eggplants with a variety of sides, but I think salad is probably your best bet. They are already quite filling and nutritious on their own (due to the bread and the red lentils) and incorporate so much flavor, so a happy, simple salad that won’t steal their thunder is great company! Today I made a side salad from cherry tomatoes and lamb’s lettuce together with a quiet dressing containing fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
There is just one question though: what to do with all the left-over dates?
Oriental-Style Filled Eggplant
2 large eggplants
2 medium onions
30g pine nuts
one cup of cooked red lentils (boil half a cup in hot water until somewhat tender)
1 slice of dark gluten-free bread with seeds
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
3 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the eggplants and cut off the top. Halve them, and hollow out each half, leaving a thick enough rim on the edges (if you don’t, the sides could break). Peel a zebra pattern into the eggplant shell using a vegetable peel.
Chop up the insides of the eggplant roughly and set aside.
Fill a pot with water and season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook the hollowed out eggplant halves for about three to four minutes. Turn off the heat under your pot and remove the eggplants. Set the eggplant halves upright into an oven-proof dish.
Turn on your oven to 220°C.
Peel the onions and cut into slices.
Place a pan on high heat, add a generous chug of olive oil and place the onions into the pan.
Fry the onion slices until roasted golden brown.
Add the pine nuts and roast for a minute or two.
Add the chopped eggplant pieces and fry until they are somewhat tender, about three minutes. Stir occasionally.
Cut up the slice of gluten-free bread. Add to the pan (if you are feeling so inclined you can also set the eggplant aside and roast the pieces of bread on their own). You may want to add another generous chug of olive oil at this point, because the pieces of bread may call for it and then give the filling another stir.
Once the pieces of bread are somewhat roasted, add the red lentils and incorporate into the filling.
Season the eggplant filling with cumin and the chopped cilantro.
Add the pomegranate seeds and stir one last time.
Gently spoon the filling into the eggplant halves, and set them back into your casserole dish. Fill a bit of water into the dish, just enough to cover the bottom, about half a centimeter.
Place the oven-proof dish into the oven and bake for about ten to fifteen minutes.
Remove the oven-proof dish from the oven.
Place two eggplant halves upright on a plate and serve immediately. Enjoy!