I’m a lazy cook. I’m constantly combining steps so that I can get dinner on the table in as little time and with as few pots and pans dirtied as possible (though D, our resident dishwasher, would tell you that I don’t always do a good job at that last goal).
Last night I started cooking with the noble intention of making stuffed baby eggplants, but somewhere along the line I just lost my enthusiasm. I think it was when I saw the 12 baby eggplant halves all lined up on the cutting board waiting for me to carefully carve out their insides–it suddenly looked like just too much work. After all, it was just a casual meal for the three of us, no one to impress (except for you, dear readers). I got to thinking that I could simply layer slices of the eggplants with the filling between them, and it would taste the same as stuffed eggplants with much less work. So that’s what I did. I took the eggplant halves and sliced each one again, steamed them lightly so that they would cook completely, and baked them with the filling in a casserole. And it was delicious!
Unstuffed Baby Eggplants
Baby eggplants are layered between an aromatic mixture of lentils, tomatoes, mint, and spices. If you can’t find baby eggplants, one large eggplant will do.
- 6 baby eggplants, stems removed and sliced into quarters lengthwise (about 1/3-inch thick)
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- cayenne pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- 1/2 to 1 cup bread crumbs (may use gluten-free or omit)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (optional)
- olive oil spray
- Prepare the baby eggplants by cutting off the stem and then slicing them lengthwise into about 4 slices, approximately 1/3-inch thick. Place the slices in a steamer basket, and steam them for 10 minutes, or until slices are softened but still firm enough to handle. Do not over-cook. Set aside to cool.
- While the eggplant is steaming, put the lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until they are tender yet still hold their shape, about 20-30 minutes. When they’re done, remove from heat, add the one teaspoon of salt, if you like, and allow them to sit in their cooking water until needed.
- In a large, non-stick skillet, sauté the onion until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, paprika, allspice, cumin, and black pepper. Drain the liquid from the lentils and add them to the skillet. Add cayenne pepper to taste (I used about 1/8 teaspoon for my mild version). Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the parsley, mint, lemon juice, and salt to taste.
- Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray an 8-inch square baking dish with olive oil. Line the bottom of the dish with half of the eggplant slices. Spoon half of the lentil mixture over the eggplant slices. Repeat with remaining eggplant and lentils. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 25 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Combine the bread crumbs with the parsley and the optional flax seed, and sprinkle it evenly over the top the the casserole. Spray lightly with olive oil and return to the oven. Cook until the top is medium-brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into about 6 squares and serve.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Makes about 6 servings. Per serving (including bread crumbs and flax seeds): 200 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (8% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 450mg Sodium; 14g Fiber.
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