We continue our exploration of the Jerusalem cookbook, Atlantic Avenue’s Middle Eastern shops, and, of course, the eggplant, with this fantastic recipe for stuffed eggplants with lamb and pine nuts. Eggplants serve as the perfect canvas for a savory blend of middle eastern-spiced lamb and pine nuts. Pine nuts are expensive, but you can get them fairly cheaply by the pound at Sahadis, on Atlantic Avenue. Don’t be thrown off by the per pound price, as pine nuts are light and you’ll only need less than a quarter pound for this recipe.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Eggplants with Lamb and Pine Nuts
4 medium eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds)
6 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 medium onions
1 lb ground lamb
7 tbsp pine nuts
2/3 oz flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
salt and pepper
1. Roast the eggplants: preheat the oven to 425. Halve the eggplants lengthwise. Brush all sides with plenty of olive oil (about 4 tablespoons), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place them in a roasting pan skin side down. Roast for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
2. While the eggplants are roasting, start making the stuffing. Chop the onions finely and mince the parsley. Then, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon. Add half of this spice mixture along with the onions to the hot pan. Cook over medium-high heat for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent. Add the ground lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook until the lamb is cooked through, around 8 minutes. When done, remove from heat.
3. Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind paste, remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and some salt and mix well.
4. Stuff the eggplants. Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast for 1 1/2 hours. The eggplants are done when they are completely soft and the sauce is thick. Once or twice during cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants, adding more water if the sauce dries out.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes, about half unattended
Makes 4 large servings