Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eggplant Stuffed with Sausage and Rice

I finally harvested a huge pile of eggplant from my 5 Udumalapet plants outside.  They are star producers!  Aside from a few nibbles in the leaves by flea beetles, they have given me no trouble at all and now are producing like crazy!  Their striped skin with purples, white, and yellow make a great presentation. 

I wanted to use up a bunch of small ones (each a little smaller than a tennis ball) and show off their beautiful skins, so I decided to try some stuffed eggplant.  Much like stuffed peppers, I could leave them whole and fill them with a tomato-sausage-rice mixture, topped off with generous slices of fresh mozzarella. 

-8 small eggplant
-2 Italian sausages
-1 onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-1 quart (32 oz) tomato sauce (we used my mom’s home-canned spaghetti sauce)
-1.5 c rice
-2 balls of fresh mozzarella
-fresh basil leaves for garnish
->  Remove tops from eggplant and a small amount from the bottoms in order to get them to stand up straight.  Use a paring knife and spoon to scrape out the insides of the eggplants, leaving about a quarter inch thick shell.  Chop up removed eggplant flesh to use later.  
Squeeze sausage from casing and brown in a skillet at medium heat.  Once sausage has browned and released enough fat to coat the skillet, add onion.  Sauté until soft and then add pepper, chopped eggplant flesh, and garlic.  Once vegetables are softened and well mixed, add rice and allow to sauté with vegetables for a couple of minutes.  Then add tomato sauce, and season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes if you like a little more heat.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat.  Simmer on medium-low until liquid is mostly reduced and absorbed and rice is al dente.  
Fill carved out eggplant with rice mixture and arrange eggplant in a baking dish.  If you have extra rice mixture, tuck it in around the eggplants in the dish.  Top each eggplant with a generous slice of fresh mozzarella.  Garnish with a fresh basil leaf, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted, bubbly, and just beginning to brown. 

TIP:  One down side of Udumalapet eggplant is that they can be a little on the seedy side.  In order to reduce the seeds in this recipe and to eliminate any of the bitterness sometimes found in eggplant, I recommend the following:  As you scrape out the eggplant, soak both the scraped out eggplant “cups” and the flesh in heavily salted water until you are ready for them.  The salt water bath will keep them from turning brown and reduce some of the bitterness.  An added bonus is that much of the seeds will soak to the bottom of the bowl, but the flesh will float.  This way you can skim off the flesh from the top of the water when you are ready to use it, but leave the seeds in the bottom to dispose of or to prep for seed saving! 

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