First off let me say I love Eggplant, but it ain’t everyday that I can naturally squeeze Eggplant into a conversation with my crew. Don’t get me wrong many of my guys know their way around the kitchen, but we ain’t talkin eggplant in those moments. I’m catching side eye and an extra large side of clowning…
But my chef homies, yes we can talk eggplant and anything else. I was at a cooking event with Chefs Marvin Woods and Tre Wilcox of Top Chef fame. We were talking shop about soul food, and Tre blind sided us with the statement that he never cooked and actually didn’t know how to cook soul food. This would be akin to someone saying they never smelled weed at a Hip hop concert. Now we gave him da business about losing his hood pass and all that, but on further reflection I thought it’s actually a great thing. He was a black chef free to just cook whatever. More importantly, we have enough chefs cooking “soul food”; it’s time for some of us to leave La La Land and evolve the culture and food. Don’t get me wrong, I love fried chicken, mac and cheese with that smooth velveeta melt, and a big ole plate of smothered pork chops but we got plenty of experts who provide this and plus I can’t eat it everyday.
This eggplant recipe was born out of those conversations as we discussed the need and desire for more creativity in this space. Underscored in all of this was the attitude to be free and challenge the accepted norms. For example when people think soul food they don’t think eggplant. Why not? We gotta keep it real, that’s exactly what’s wrong. Keeping soul food “real” is killing us literally.
So throw on some Digable Planets, slice this eggplant to this “Escapism” chorus…
“Get free, get free y’all
Funk is you, funk is me, funk is us, funk is free
I think every mom and dad should say to their kids
K-k-kids be free
Be whoever you are and do whatever you wanna do”
The actual recipe is a simple one. It’s just a riff on stuffed peppers. The only real difference is in the prep of the eggplant. Whereas peppers are hollow but firm, with eggplant you are essentially removing the flesh which holds it intact. So in order for it to act as a vessel for the stuffing a layer of the flesh has to be left behind to maintain the necessary firmness. Removing the flesh can be a little tricky so carving the flesh in crisis-cross fashion makes it easier to remove. Goin heavy on the olive oil helps also.
The recipe could easily be vegan, however I used ground lamb as the main protein.
Great beats, better eats. Enjoy!
Lamb Stuffed Eggplant
- 2 large eggplant halved lengthwise
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion halved and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 12 oz can fire posted tomatoes
- 3/4 lbs ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano finely chopped
Cut a line 1/4 inch in from the edges of the eggplant halves, then score the flesh inside with a criss-cross pattern.
Rub plenty of olive oil over the eggplant and season with salt. Arrange in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Cook in preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until the flesh has softened. Set aside leaving eggplant in the dish.
Season ground lamb with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat oil in heavy skillet and brown the ground lamb. Remove lamb to a paper towel lined bowl, set aside and clean the skillet.
Heat oil in the cleaned heavy skillet, then add the onions, peppers and garlic, and saute over low heat 3-4 minutes. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes. Cook until the juices from the tomatoes have reduced some, then add salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley and oregano to the onion/tomato mixture, then add the sugar.
Scoop some of the flesh from the middle of the eggplant, leaving a shell around the outside to help hold the eggplant base in shape. Chop the scooped out section and add to the tomato mixture. Add the ground lamb and mix well. Pile the mixture into each of the four eggplant shells and sprinkle with additional black pepper and paprika. Arrange lemon slices on top. Add some additional olive on top and then dose with about 1/4 cup of water.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes until soft. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve sprinkled with any leftover parsley and oregano.