Eggplants Stuffed With Onions, Peppers, Cheese and Nuts

This is my tweak on a dish my mother used to make often in the summer. I usually bake the eggplants and make the sauce a day before, then sauté the onions and peppers and finish the dish the next day. It can also be baked 1-2 days before you plan to serve it; refrigerate it then gently reheat. I would say that it tastes better the next day.

 

 

Serves 4-8 (more…)

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Stuffed Summer Vegetables with Rice, Farro and Pine Nuts

The stuffing is simply a mixture of chopped vegetables, the bits and pieces removed to make room for the stuffing – this dish wastes nothing. Together they create an unexpectedly tasty combination. Eggplants, peppers, onions and tomatoes, with herbs, grains, pine nuts and raisins cook slowly in the oven inside the vegetables for an hour or more. Once cooled completely their flavors meld together and make the perfect summer lunch.

 

 

Some people think that the idea of stuffed vegetables came to Continental Europe from Sicily, where it was introduced by Arab Moors. But I have my doubts. Italian stuffed tomatoes and zucchini are quite different from those of the Near East. They are usually rich with parmesan and other cheeses, as well as with prosciutto.  In the Eastern Mediterranean cooks had to be frugal, making the most with the scraps from their hallowed and hollowed vegetables and rice or other grains.

 

 

 

Start by choosing a pan and that will hold, somewhat snugly, the vegetables you plan to stuff. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon rice for each vegetable you stuff, plus 3-4 tablespoons ‘for the pan’. But don’t worry; if you have leftover stuffing transfer to a saucepan, add some water and simmer, stirring every now and then, to make a delicious risotto.

 

 

This dish is time-consuming but worthwhile, and you can prepare it in stages. We often cook it together with our guest at Kea Artisanal. Tomatoes take longer to hollow than peppers or eggplant, so you can start them a day in advance. Once emptied, keep the tomatoes upside down over kitchen paper in the refrigerator and complete the preparation the next day.

 

Serves 6       (more…)

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Roasted Summer Vegetables with Garlic and Herbs

I bake all or some of the vegetables on the ingredient list, depending on what my garden produces. For example, I omit the eggplants and increase the amount of zucchini in June, when I harvest more zucchini than I could otherwise cook. Needless to mention, again, that simple dishes like this one depend on the quality of the vegetables. 

 

Choose the freshest vegetables from your local farmer’s market and your summer roast will always be spectacular, no matter what vegetables you choose. Sometimes we bake the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and, of course they are even more delicious!

Leftovers are great as a topping for polenta or grain pilaf.  You can also spoon them on toasted pita or bread to make a bruschetta, topping them with crumbled feta; They also make a great base for omelet or frittata.

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Creamy Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

This is my take on  Hünkar, which  is traditionally prepared with sheep’s milk butter; but I find that this olive oil variation can be equally sumptuous. Cheese plays a very important role in my version and can alter the taste dramatically: Gruyere and cheddar make a richly sweet dish, but smoked cheddar or provolone combined with Feta adds a spicier note.

 

 

An Ottoman Sultan, a French Princess…and Hünkar Beğendi – all the necessary ingredients for romance, intrigue, and culinary invention.  According to legend this rich and creamy eggplant puree was created in the 18th century by one of the Sultan’s cooks.  The occasion was a dinner given in honor of a French Princess visiting the palace of the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. The French were known for their love of vegetable purees, so the cook paid homage to the Princess by presenting an Oriental version, using the Empire’s most admired vegetable.  The dish was a great success.  We know less about the Sultan’s pursuit of the Princess…

 

In Turkey and in Greece hünkar traditionally accompanies a tomato lamb or beef stew. I love it on its own, or topped with my  Basic Tomato Sauce. You can also serve it with braised kale or other hearty greens. Hünkar makes a great appetizer: serve it with toasted pita triangles to scoop-up the creamy puree or spread it on toasted, garlic-rubbed multi-grain bread.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8-10 as an appetizer (more…)

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