Baked Eggplant with Minced Beef
After stopping by her family’s house in Westchester unannounced, Lucy’s father was forced to gather some tomatoes and eggplants from his incredible garden to send me home with some bounty. It’s the kind of garden that I can only dream of. There are rows and rows of different shapes and colors of tomatoes, all happily dangling from pipes meticulously tied together. All shades of aubergines peek from stems covered in fuzz and peppers of all sizes dot the compact landscape. When I was invited to their upstate cabin during Memorial Day weekend, I tasted the vegetables they picked from their garden and all I’ve been wanting to do was see it for myself. How can a small plot of land yield so much love?
Back in my apartment where the second batch of mixed greens I planted are not even making any more effort to grow past an inch, I thought of what to do with all the eggplants. If my father was in town, he would tell me to grill the slender Japanese kinds over the stove and mix with scrambled egg for a Filipino breakfast. But there was one large eggplant that looked good enough to be stuffed, and so I went through my Mediterranean cookbooks to find a recipe that did just that. The original Turkish recipe called for the beef to be baked with the eggplant. I didn’t do that because I didn’t want to dry out the beef and just opted to brown it separately. It all goes down when you serve: the eggplant flesh will be soft enough to scoop up and you top each serving off with the ground beef.
a large knob of butter
2 lbs ground beef
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
red chile flakes
1 large eggplant
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Cut the eggplant in half and score the insides with multiple slits, both crosswise and lengthwise. Pour and brush some olive oil on the eggplant. Bake for 25 minutes.
2. In the meantime, melt butter and brown ground beef for about 10 minutes in a frying pan. Add the onion, tomato and parsley and cook. Season with salt, pepper and chile.
3. Remove eggplant to a serving plate and soften the cooked insides with a spoon so that you can stuff it with the beef.