Passover Stuffed Japanese Eggplants

Recipe by Linda Capeloto Sendowski

Linda told me that a traditional Sephardic Passover meal for the Jews of Turkey and Rhodes contains a lot of stuffed vegetable dishes.  “Nona (grandmother) always mentioned the little stuffed eggplants,” she said. “I think it was her favorite.  You can find little Japanese eggplants everywhere now and also there are so many other small eggplants- round ones, striped white and purple ones.  They will all work.”

Ingredients:

  • 10 to12 small Japanese eggplants (depending on size)
  • 1 and 1/ 4 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/3 cup matzo meal
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp. safflower oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups finely diced Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry eggplants.  Slice a small piece of the stem end off each eggplant.  Slice eggplants in half and, using a small melon ball scoop, take out some pulp to create a shell to stuff.  (Dice pulp and reserve it for later use in the recipe.)
  2. Heat a large 12 -inch skillet on medium-high and add two tablespoons oil.  Season eggplant shells with salt and sauté each shell, scooped side down, until golden and beginning to soften.  Remove eggplant shells and set aside on a large plate.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, parsley, garlic, eggs and matzo meal.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  4. Fill each eggplant shell with the ground beef mixture. Lay filled eggplants in a greased,
  5. 9 x13-inch baking dish.
  6. Reheat 12-inch skillet and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent.  Next, add reserved diced eggplant pulp.  Season onion-eggplant mixture with salt and pepper, to taste, and sauté until slightly golden and beginning to stick.  Add diced tomatoes and cook down the liquid for another 2 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350° F.  Evenly spoon sautéed vegetable mixture over the stuffed eggplants in baking dish.  Mix crushed tomatoes with water and pour this over and around eggplants. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of parsley and season once more with salt and pepper.
  8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place in hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove dish from oven when it looks golden, bubbly, and cooked through.
  9. This dish can be made several days ahead. Simply re-heat or eat cold, as you prefer, for an appetizer or vegetable side dish at the Seder.

Serves 10 to 20, depending on serving size.

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