STUFFED EGGPLANT WITH FARRO, GINGER AND POMEGRANATE

 

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I returned from Istanbul a few weeks ago with an eggplant monkey on my back.  When I wasn’t stuffing myself with Turkish baklava, I was slavering over Turkish eggplant.  The aubergine highlight of my travels was a braised veal shank wrapped in eggplant, a dish so meltingly tender than it was difficult to tell from texture alone where the eggplant ended and the meat began.  The ubiquity of cooked eggplant in Turkey isn’t duplicated in this country so an eggplant lover must often fall back on his own devices.  Stuffed Eggplant with Farro, Ginger and Pomegranate is not nearly so complicated as the veal shank I ate, but it is tender, and so deeply satisfying that the absence of meat in the recipe seems irrelevant.

A surfeit of over-rosemaried, bitter ratatouilles in my twenties made by well-intentioned vegetarian roommates, followed by experience as a dad whose kids turned up their noses at the stuff,  made it easy for me to leave eggplant (and zucchini) off grocery lists for much of my adult life.  I did eat eggplant parmesan during lonely guy nights out, but I wasn’t about to try cooking that at home.   Regardless, in the last ten years eggplant has slyly insinuated itself back into out kitchen, first as a modest grilled accompaniment to lamb, next posturing as a deconstructed version of an Italian classic,  Simple Eggplant Parmesan.  Finally, after a bicycle trip to Puglia, for no reason other than it tasted incredible, we duplicated the culinary highlight of our trip, Burnt Wheat Cavatelli with Tomato Eggplant Sauce (omitting the traditional horse meat ingredient), a meal so good that I’ve been known to make and eat it alone, as long as there’s a bottle of sturdy red wine within reach.  Eggplant is cunning.

We no longer bother salting eggplant to remove bitterness.  When I grill slices of large globe eggplants, using salt only as a last-minute seasoning,  bitterness isn’t a problem, and bitterness has never been an issue for the smaller eggplants used in this recipe.

Anyone familiar with scooping raw eggplant might wonder why we didn’t just slice the damn things lengthwise before cooking and save ourselves the hassle of hollowing out whole ones.  The answer is simple.  Halving the eggplants would require twice as many pans and twice as much sauce to simmer all the halves simultaneously.  Also, in order for the farro stuffing to finish cooking evenly, we’d have to use a parchment seal under the lid of each pan.  It seemed easier to go ahead and scoop out the shells.  FYI: make sure you have a sharp-edged melon baller.  Once that’s done, you’re practically home free.  Oh, and our kids, especially our daughter, who was with me in Istanbul, now pretend that they’ve always loved eggplant.  Enjoy.  Ken

 

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Stuffed Eggplant with Farro, Ginger and Pomegranate

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 small eggplant, 8 ounces each
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¾ cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup chopped mint + some leaves for garnish
  • ½ cup chopped parsley + some leaves for garnish
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 cups chopped peeled fresh or canned tomatoes
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice

Directions:

  1. One at a time, roll the eggplants back and forth under your palms, leaning over and putting some weight into it.  This will soften the skin, and make it a bit easier to remove the flesh.  Cut off and reserve the stalked tops.  Using a melon baller, scoop out the flesh, leaving a hollow eggplant behind with walls roughly a ¼-inch thick.  Chop the flesh.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over low heat.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Remove the lid, scoop out half the onion mixture and transfer to a bowl.*  Add the chopped eggplant, cumin and coriander to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the eggplant starts to sear, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the farro, reduce the heat to low, cook 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper; add the water, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and cook until the mixture is dry.  Stir in the chopped herbs and all but 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds.  Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  4. Stuff the eggplant shells with the farro mixture and secure each with a stalk top with tooth picks.
  5. While the farro is cooling, wipe out the pan, then add the reserved onion mixture.  Add the tomatoes and pomegranate juice and cook 10 minutes over low heat.  Lay the eggplant into the pan and spoon the tomato mixture over the top.  Cover and cook for 45 minutes, turning the eggplants every ten minutes or so.
  6. Split each eggplant lengthwise, sprinkle with sesame seeds, leaves of mint and parsley, and serve.

 

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Jody Notes:

I was excited to realize, once I started to cook, that this is a vegan recipe.  It wasn’t intentional.  It’s just a great recipe.  Roxanne, who passed through the kitchen while I was carrying on about it and she said, “Vegan is no longer cool.  Didn’t you know that, mom”?  I guess I didn’t get the memo, but what I do know is that sometimes, all of us, want to eat something delicious with lots of vegetables.  

I had to leave our blogging session before the eggplant finished cooking, so I was surprised to discover later that Ken had split the eggplant lengthwise instead of doing what I’d imagined but never explained – cutting the cooked eggplant crosswise into rounds.  You can serve it either way.  It’s probably easier lengthwise, instead of in rounds, when you have to take care not to let the stuffing fall out.    

*I bolded the instruction so you don’t make the same mistake as me.  I forgot to set aside half the onion mixture, as indicated in Step 2, before adding the chopped eggplant to the pan.  When I realized my oversight, I had to slalom around the eggplant with a teaspoon to get enough sautéed onion out to make the sauce.    

 

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31 thoughts

    • Hello, Appetite–Stuffed eggplant is one of the Middle East’s culinary glories–just about every cuisine have versions with and without meat. Give it a shot. UNBELIEVABLE leftovers, by the way, whether cold or nuked. Ken

  1. Wow, this dish looks incredible. I’ve only had stuffed eggplant “dolma”-style, with rice and meat inside (an no pomegranate). I love this variation of yours, and the pictures are as beautiful as ever. Thank you, Jody and Ken.

    • Thanks, Darya–A lot of recipes feature ground lamb in the stuffing, which, we will definitely do another time. We wanted to just work out the kinks with farro first, plus farro,is tasty enough to stand on its own. The sour tartness of pomegranate is a nice complement. Ken

    • Hi, Amanda–I wanted to call you this past week–I was in New York doing a weeklong street photography workshop with Peter Turnley. But I was so buried with the daily assignments I barely had time to complete the photography, upload the photos and get to bed. It was amazing. Regarding Turkey, we’re partially well-travelled. Jody had to fly home directly after the business portion of our trip to Greece was finished. I ended up in Istanbul with her partners and our daughter, who joined us from Paris, for a couple of days to take advantage of a layover. I’m definitely going back with Jody–the food is mazing and it’s hard to spend more than $25 on a meal, as long as you stay out of touristy spots. Eggplant rules! Ken

      • Wow. That’s amazing. You should have called! We may actually be in Boston this summer so I’ll definitely contact you and we can have a meal either at your restaurants or a place of your choosing! Greece sounds amazing too. I have so much eating to do :)

  2. Beautiful photos and story and ingredients and you do get around. Ken. You have quite the wanderlust…I love eggplant – here called aubergine, but months can go by without my buying it. Now I will again. Thank you.

    • Hello, Sophie–There was an alignment of the planets and I found myself on the road again. My takeaway from the trip, aside from the conviction that there is much more of both Greece and Turkey I need to see, is that eggplant can be as unctuous and sensually satisfying a vegetable as one can find – and that I need to eat it more often. Be well. Ken

  3. This sounds delicious! I’d like to try making them one day soon although it kind of sounds like a bit of a pain. ;)
    As a child and teen I never was exposed to aubergines, but I tried them out as an adult. It took me a while to find a way to cook them that wasn’t… bad. Luckily I’ve come to know people whose cultures use them in many dishes and have much better things that I can make.
    I also enjoyed your photographs.

    • Well, it is A BIT of a pain but, as the motto of the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders says, “beauty knows no pain.” You can, as I mentioned, cut down on the labor simply by slicing them lengthwise and cooking them that way, if you have enough pans. Good luck. Ken

  4. Ken and Jody,
    This was a delicious dinner. The recipe was easy to follow and the pictures were incredibly helpful. I was initially daunted by the need to hollow-out the eggplant with a melon baller, but I happened upon an apple corer as I checked the kitchen drawer. It made a channel down the eggplant which was super easy to then hollow-out further with the aforementioned baller.
    I do wonder if the eggplant, once stuffed and sealed and returned to the pan, could be finished in the oven if the skillet were ovenproof. It might be easier, and I think the skin might be softer.

    • Robin! How nice to encounter you here. What with all the selling and buying and travelling I’m afraid I overlooked this. First of all, I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. We tried so hard to find an easier way to hollow out the eggplant, but in the end the melon-baller was the most efficient of several alternatives. Regarding finishing in the over – of course you can do that. The only drawback is that you still have to turn it periodically (or the underside skin becomes TOO soft) and you do need to watch it carefully lest you cook it to the point where the eggplants collapse when you try to lift them out of the pan. Enjoy. Ken

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