I had never eaten, purchased or cooked with eggplant in my life. I really didn’t even know what it was! I bought a Middle Eastern cookbook and started leafing through the colorful pages. I picked out many recipes that I thought looked festive and different. I knew it would be simple to just follow the instructions. So I did, I made meat pies, cheese pies, rice pudding and a list of other traditional foods. I served them to my many Middle Eastern friends and each polite person asked “Oh is this an American dish, interesting” The first time I told them that it was their traditional dish sfeeha or roza halib the look I got was never forgotten! I had followed the recipes to the letter, bought the rose water, syrups and spices and yet here I was back to square one! I noticed that Middle Eastern cooks used eggplant so I decided to try making something with eggplant. Surely that shouldn’t be too hard. Although I had never eaten it or cooked it I figured it couldn’t be that hard, or could it? I made a dish with eggplant and it was bitter and rubbery! No more eggplant for me! I swore off of anything that needed this vegetable and gave up on Middle Eastern cooking all together. Months later I saw a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan and reluctantly gave it another try. This time it was a total success! Ever since then I have made this dish which I then found out is nothing like traditional Italian Eggplant Parmesan but still a big winner for me! My Arab friends loved it even though it was not a dish familiar to them. My kids grew up eating and loving this dish as well! This experience started my love for eggplant and I found other ways to use it. Many Middle Eastern dishes call for Eggplant and we will explore a few of these this week!
3 large eggplants
1 onion chopped
2 tsp. dry basil, 1 tsp. salt
2 pieces of bread
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2- 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
3 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
Olive oil to saute eggplant
Directions Chop onion and saute in olive oil in large pan. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Wash the eggplant. Cut lengthwise. Using a spoon carefully scoop out flesh of eggplant. Set aside. Keep the shells in tact and set aside on tray in refrigerator. Coarsely chop the eggplant into bite size pieces. Put eggplant in pan with onions and continue to saute. Add salt and basil. Keep stirring and cooking. Add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes,stir well and keep cooking. Cover and keep on low boil. Stir every few minutes to keep from sticking or burning. While eggplant cooks, get 2 pieces of loaf bread, end pieces are fine. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and dry. Remove from oven. Break bread crumbs up and put in with the eggplant mixture, stir well. Add parsley, Parmesan cheese and stir. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Place eggplant shells in a baking pan in single layer. The pan must have high enough sides because you will be adding water to the pan. Using a spoon scoop eggplant mixture into each shell.
Pour water into pan around eggplants so that they do not stick to bottom and they cook well. Do not use allot of water and do not pour on top of eggplants.Approximate water to use–1/2 to 1 cup. Just enough to cover bottom of pan. Let eggplants cook for 1 hour until crusty on top. Be careful when removing pan from oven. Eggplants and water will be very hot. Let pan set and cool slightly. Move eggplants to serving platter. Using a spoon serve desired amount of eggplant mixture from shell, discard shell when empty.Can be eaten with Arabic bread, rice or plain. Delicious!