Baked eggplant in tomato meat stew is a warm and cozy meal that’s simple and filling!
Serve with warm pita bread or white rice
******** When I typed this post I was in the Middle East BUT the internet connection was so poor that I literally couldn’t post this! I had all these plans of posting so much and writing as I learn but that clearly didn’t happen. BUT I’m back in California now and I had enough time with the lack of internet to get lost in my head and swim in ideas that I want to implement in 2016 so get ready for Tuesday posts! Hope everyone had an amazing holiday season and a happy new years. =)=) *********
The title of this dish literally translates to tray of eggplant, so simple and straight to the point. I never really paid particular attention to what is consumed in traditional middle eastern cuisine until I started writing down recipes and saving them. I’ve since noticed that eggplants are maybe the number consumed vegetable, at least in my family. Does anyone else see this trend too?? We stuff them, ferment them, bake them, fry them, the list goes on. I have yet to meet a Middle eastern that says they don’t like eggplants. If you’re out there, come forth at once.
I’m actually in the Middle East as I type this. I’m in Kuwait doing culinary research and getting inspiration and eating tons of amazing food. Kuwait is part of the Gulf region and very different than the Levantine countries which includes Syria, where my parents are from and really all I knew until I was exposed to people from other Arab countries.
The Kuwaiti Arabic dialect is so different than Syrian dialect Arabic that at my moderate level of Arabic comprehension I actually don’t understand it very easily. Kuwait itself is a lot more Western developed so walking into a mall here (and there are a ton of large extravagant malls here) you’ll see all the shops you would find in a high end mall in the United States or Europe. If it wasn’t for some of the women dressed in all black you could easily mistake yourself for being in the US.
On the contrary, you won’t find any of that in the Syria. You will find a lot of authentic shops that have been there for centuries. I have such a warm spot for Damascus in my heart because I spent quite some time there as a child. The people are so warm, friendly with a unique sense of humor. The type of humor that cuts through the awkwardness of meeting someone new and makes you feel like you’ve known each other forever. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was in Damascus.
There is a street lined with shawarma shops in an area of Damascus called the Meedan that have been there for decades and people drive from all over for late night shawarma cravings. I’m going to try to dig up some pictures of Damascus but in the meantime, tray of eggplant it is! There are a few variations of this recipe but this is my go to one that I make pretty often. My mother in law makes a real amazing one where she includes jalapeños for a great kick at the end, I’ll get that recipe up soon.
- 2 large eggplants (peeled and cut into 1 inch slices)
- Olive oil to brush on eggplants if baking
- Vegetable oil to fry eggplants if frying
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to sauté onions
- ground beef
- 1/2 medium size onion
- 1 can diced tomato
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Pita bread or white rice to serve with
- Peel and cut the eggplant in 1 inch slices
- Place eggplant on paper towel and sprinkle salt on them for 20 mins
***This step is very important because it will drain the eggplant of excess water. If you skip this step the dish will lack flavor because the excess water will dilute the taste.***
- Either fry them in heated vegetable oil or bake them for 25 minutes at 350
- Place the baked or fried eggplants onto a pyrex so they are completely pressed against each other
- *The more you squish in the better because they will thin out during cooking.
- On a stovetop sauté onions in oil for 1-2 minutes until they are soft and then add beef and brown the meat with salt and pepper to liking
- Add 15 oz can of petite diced tomato, chicken stock and tomato paste and let it simmer together so flavors mesh together for 10-12 minutes.
- Top the tomato mixture onto the eggplants. Cover and put in the oven for 25 minutes at 350
- I like to broil it uncovered for a few minutes at the end to give it a nice overall finish.