From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...They are both chefs and partners in Ottolenghi, the renowned London restaurant and deli. While they met in London, both hail from Jerusalem and they have recently collaborated on a cookbook, called Jerusalem, that has been described as a love letter to their childhood home and its culinary traditions. Ottolenghi is from the Jewish part of the old city and Tamimi is from the Arab sector. Together they are trying to bridge the gap between the two cultures with their food. Their food, which features Mediterranean ingredients, is boldly flavored, vegetable based and wildly colorful. I found the recipe I'm featuring tonight in Food and Wine magazine and it meets all the criteria the pair is famous for. I am going to pull you all aside for just a moment, however. The quantities in the recipe didn't compute for me. I was concerned that there would be more eggplant than lamb with which to fill it. The eggplants that I am able to buy here are short and squat and have more surface area to cover than the more slender varieties I suspect were used to test the recipe. So, while I made no other changes to the dish, I used only two halved eggplants for our meal. It work out well, though I suspect we had slightly more meat on each portion than was intended. This is a delicious dish, and if you enjoy well-flavored Mediterranean food, you will really like this. Here's the original recipe.
Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine and Chefs Ottolenghi and Tamimi
Four 1-pound eggplants, halved lengthwise (I used two 1-pound eggplants)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground lamb
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate *(see cook's note below)*
One 1-1/2-inch cinnamon stick
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange eggplants in a large baking dish, cut sides up. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until browned.
2) Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix cinnamon, cumin and paprika. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and half of spice mixture, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add lamb and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains, about 4 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat in skillet. Stir in pine nuts, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Season lamb with salt and pepper.
3) Spoon filling onto eggplants. Add 1/2 cup of water, lemon juice, tamarind concentrate, remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch each of salt and pepper to remaining spices. Mix well and pour into baking dish. Add cinnamon stick and cover dish with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes, basting twice with pan juices, until very tender.
4) Transfer eggplants to plates or a platter and discard cinnamon stick. Pour pan juices over eggplants, sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.
***Cook's Note: Tamarind concentrate, also called tamarind paste, is a pure concentrate of tamarind. Tamarind is the pod of a tree native to Africa, but now mostly cultivated in India. Although tamarind contains natural sugar, it also contains 12% tartaric acid, which makes it extremely tart. It is a souring agent commonly used in Indian curries and chutneys, and is also popular in Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean cooking. It is the ingredient that gives Worcestershire Sauce its unique flavor. It can be found in ethnic market, large markets and on-line.
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