How nice it is to be able to serve a vegan entrée that makes people say WOW! That wonderful compliment came my way very recently at a luncheon attended by 80 non-vegetarians.
The luncheon was held at a very large hotel and conference center. When offered the entrée choices of Rosemary Sage Chicken with Piccata Sauce, Roast Salmon with Red Wine Sauce, or Vegan Walnut Stuffed Eggplant, 21 of the 80 people attending chose the eggplant dish–one of my very favorite recipes from The Nut Gourmet, my cookbook that was published in 2006 and is still in print. Especially rewarding was the lively applause when the chairwoman announced the entrée was my recipe.
I really wanted to thank the chef for accepting my recipe and preparing the eggplant entrée. I asked if was possible to speak to the chef. It seemed rather unusual for the chef at large hotel to even be willing to prepare a recipe from a patron. Within a few minutes, the chef came out with a smile. Desi Szonntagh is the executive chef at the hotel. After we chatted a bit, he said he really liked the recipe and felt it was a good idea to introduce his kitchen staff to something unique. He also appreciated the opportunity to experience something vegan that was not just pasta with vegetables.
If you have family members who really love eggplant, and you serve this delicious entrée, better get ready to receive a few WOWs of appreciation. I have no doubt you’ll agree this is one very killer delicious dish!
This recipe is a hearty Mediterranean dish with Greek ancestry and is pure heaven to walnut and eggplant lovers. Its exceptional flavor comes from the combination of cinnamon, tomato paste, and capers. Because the stuffed eggplant is so special, I keep the rest of the meal simple with stir-fried or steamed vegetables, bulgur wheat in place of a rice dish, and a tossed salad.
WALNUT STUFFED EGGPLANT
Yield: 4 hearty servings.
2 (1-pound) eggplants
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup raw walnuts, divided
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 heaping tablespoons capers, well drained
2 to 3 small ripe tomatoes, sliced
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, slicing through the stem end. Using a curved, serrated grapefruit knife, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch shell, and coarsely chop the flesh. Put the chopped eggplant into a large, deep skillet or flat-bottom wok.
- Rub the inside of the eggplant shells with a small amount of olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Place the eggplant shells under the broiler, and broil them 3 inches from the heat source for 5 to 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove the eggplant shells from the broiler and set them aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cinnamon, and pepper to the skillet with the chopped eggplant, and cook and stir for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Coarsely grind the walnuts in a hand-crank nut mill and add 2/3 cup to the skillet along with the tomato paste and capers. Mix well.
- Fill the eggplant shells with the vegetable mixture and sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/3 cup coarsely ground walnuts. Top with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes.