Sicilian Stuffed Eggplant
Eggplant is such an integral part of Sicilian cuisine and can be found in many dishes from appetizers and pastas to sauces and main courses. On our Foodie Trips to Sicily, eggplant finds its way onto the menu most days. This stuffed eggplant is a rather rustic dish in which an eggplant is cut lengthwise in half and stuffed with an incredibly flavorful mixture of ground pork, spices, olives and raisins. My Fennel Spice Mix (recipe below) is also great on fish and shellfish.
Caciocavallo cheese (also known as Ragusano) is one of the local cheeses from the Ragusa area, in southern Sicily, where we visit on our Foodie Trips to Sicily. It is an amazing cheese that comes in large rectangular loaves, and I use it extensively when we are in the region. Caciocavallo (Ragusano) is a firm “stretched-curd” cheese made from cow’s milk and was put on the Italian DOC protection list in 1955. Substitutes for this dish would include aged Provolone, Parmesan or Pecorino.
Sicilian Stuffed EggplantCourse: EntreeCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
3 large eggplants
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
1 Tablespoon Fennel Spice Mix (recipe below)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
2 Tablespoons capers, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup coarse bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Caciocavallo cheese (substitutes: aged Provolone, Parmesan or Pecorino)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- Fennel Spice Mix
2 Tablespoons whole fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
2 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Begin to remove the interior flesh of the eggplant by using a paring knife to cut around the perimeter of the eggplant, leaving a 1/2-inch thick “shell”. Scoop the flesh out with a Tablespoon. Take a small slice off from the bottom of the eggplant so it will sit flat and not roll. Sprinkle each of the eggplant shells with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and place upside down on a paper towel lined tray to drain for 30 minutes. Chop the scooped out flesh into 1/2-inch pieces and reserve.
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
- For the filling, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the chopped onions for 3 minutes, stirring, and add the garlic. Cook for another minute. Add the reserved chopped eggplant and brown in the pan, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add the ground pork and fennel spice mix. Cook, breaking up the pork with a spoon and cooking it through.
- Add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs in a small bowl and mixed with 2 Tablespoons of the grated cheese and 2 Tablespoons of the chopped parsley, and stir to combine.
- Place the eggplant shells in a large roasting pan and divide the filling between the shells. Sprinkle with the reserved bread crumb mixture and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
- Pour 2 cups of boiling water in the bottom of the roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes and remove the foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes to crisp up the bread crumbs on top. Serve.
- Fennel Spice Mix
- Place the whole fennel seeds in a small sauté pan and toss over medium-high heat until fragrant and lightly toasted. Finely grind in a spice grinder.
- Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.