Melanzane Ripiene (Stuffed Eggplants)
I made some delicious bread crumbs out of some Nicoise Olive rolls leftover from Easter. You may use almost any leftover bread you like. I like to add my own additional herbs. What a great way to make use of them. These Italian Eggplants are smaller, sweeter and hold together quite nicely through the cooking process. They are not bitter like the American eggplants sold commercially, so they are very easy to use in a number of dishes. I had forgotten all about them in the back of the drawer, so they needed to be used. I even had a small piece of Gorgonzola that was also leftover from the weekend.
1 plus 1/2 pounds Italian eggplant (substitute Japanese Eggplants or zucchini if you like).
2 cups bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of olive oil (plus extra to rub on the interior of your Baking dish)
Handful of fresh parsley, basil, diced fine
2 teaspoon garic diced
approx 1/2 pound of Gorgonzola
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
METHOD: Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Remove inside from your eggplants by inserting your knife along the rim of your Eggplants and carve. Take care to leave the outside of the Eggplants intact. They will be your boats that will hold your stuffing. Place your diced, eggplant pieces onto a baking sheet and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Place in oven for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place a large skillet on medium heat and add your garlic. Saute until fragrant and add your ground beef. Cook your beef and add your white wine. Let your liquid evaporate away. Pour the contents into a bowl to cool some.
Special Note: If you are using zucchini, you can skip the oven part. Due to the high water content of zucchini, you don't have to pre cook your boats. They will cook well when stuffed.
In a large bowl combine all your ingredients (except your Gorgonzola) and mix. You should have a good thick mixture consisting of your beef, eggplant interiors, herbs, salt, pepper, egg and breadcrumbs. Mix well. If your mixture seems to dry, add another egg, half at a time. You want it somewhat dry.
With your hands, fill each eggplant boat with the mixture. Do not worry about it falling over. Place in an oiled baking dish (one tablespoon wiped across the base with a paper towel), in a line. Cut your Gorgonzola and scatter the pieces across your dish.
Cover the eggplants securely with foil and cook in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Uncover your eggplants at the 45 minute mark. Let them continue to cook for 5 minutes in your oven. If they look like there is still some liquid in the pan, bake for 10 more minutes. Remove and let cool.
I served some peas as a side dish and sprinkled some right on top before serving. Will easily serve 4-6 people. It's quite filling.
It can also be made ahead a few days.
Special Note: These Eggplants measured about 6 inches in length. This version will not work with the larger American variety, Black beauty. They will require the Eggplant shells to be precooked. I would not recommend them for this dish.
You may also use Fontina cheese if Gorgonzola is unavailable. You can even add some Parmigiano and Mozzarella as a substitute for Gorgonzola. Enjoy!