This dish is featured as part of my Passover Prep Series – a collection of recipes to enjoy whether you celebrate Passover or not! If this is your first time visiting Cara’s Cravings during the PPS, click here to read more about it.
Did you know that there about as many methods for stuffing a baby eggplant as there are mixtures you could fill it with? I didn’t, until I went Googling. Some recipes call for boiling the eggplants before doing anything else to them, and others call for halving the eggplant and roasting them, before adding a meat filling that you’ve already cooked. And then there’s this little technique from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Gourmet. This one calls for hollowing out the eggplant, stuffing with a raw filling, and simmering away in a sauce. That one scared me the most. Can you guess which one I picked?
I already knew what I wanted to stuff my eggplants with. That inspiration came from a phenomenal recipe for Moroccan Lamb and Eggplant Matzoh Pie. I love almost everything about it – tender lamb; velvety, smokey eggplant; the plethora of spices. What I don’t necessarily love is that it makes a whole big casserole, and it’s a rather heavy one. I wanted to capture the essence of the dish in a lighter meal more appropriate for two, focusing on the meat filling, eggplant, and spicy sauce. Sorry, matzoh.
Now, about that filling. As much as I love lamb, I chose to swap it out for turkey for a couple reasons. First of all, I always have ground turkey frozen in half-pound portions in my freezer. To buy lamb would be expensive and involve buying more than I actually needed for this recipe (although if I scaled it up to share with company, buying lamb could definitely be justified.) But also, as you know, I like to keep things on the healthy side, most of the time. Considering cost along with calories and fat, ground turkey is my preferred option. And anyway, it tastes great. So why not?
The other Cara’s Cravings twist was adding raisins. I love all things sweet+meat, and especially when sweet+meat is combined with a tantalizing blend of Moroccan spices, I’m sent away to my own little heaven. Bye bye!
Remember how I said I was scared? Terrified is more like it. I was absolutely positive that it wouldn’t work. Surely I’d end up tearing holes all over the eggplant when scooping out the flesh, and my dreams of beautiful stuffed eggplant would wither away into a sauteed mess of ground turkey and eggplant chunks. (It would still taste good, though.) But even if I managed to hollow the eggplant out, obviously I wouldn’t be able to get the meat in there neatly. No way, uh uh. And if that worked, clearly, my beautiful stuffed eggplant would fall apart in the sauce. But all of those fears didn’t stop me from trying; on the contrary, they motivated me.
Fortunately this wasn’t as hard as I anticipated, and with each step of the recipe completed I was pleasantly surprised. It almost seemed too good to be true. So by the time the eggplants were simmering away in the sauce, I tried not to get my hopes up. I still thought there was room for error, and that the final taste wouldn’t stand up to the effort.
Truthfully, it didn’t.
It was better. The eggplant, tender and silky and smoky, still held it’s shape. The filling cooked up wonderfully like a little meatloaf inside, and the peppery, thick sauce was the perfect compliment to the warm spices and raisins in the filling. I truly savored each bite.
So if you’re sick of matzoh lasagna and matzoh brie and matzoh pizza towards the end of Passover, ditch the matzoh and try this stuffed eggplant. I will suggest that this should be a weekend project as it’s a little too much of a potschke for a weeknight dinner. But at the same time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how un-difficult it is. And it will be well worth the effort, I promise.
Moroccan-Style Stuffed Baby Eggplants