The Chronicle Herald (Metro)
Baked eggplant gets beefed up
This one-pan dinner dish you can make ahead of time comes from the new cookbook Sumac: Recipes and Stories From Syria (Interlink Books/ Thomas Allen, $45).
Author Anas Atassi’s collection of 80 recipes from his mother and grandmother comes with memories of their cooking from when he was growing up in the western Syrian city of Homs, making for a beautiful, user-friendly book.
Prepare this dish when you see, or grow, small eggplants. I used a ready-made spice blend, but Atassi provides a homemade mix.
Mnazaleh Batinjan (Baked Eggplant With Beef and Tomato)
2 eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound (500 g) lean ground beef
3 tablespoons (45 ml) pine nuts, plus extra for trimming, toasted
1 tablespoon (15 ml) blended spices *
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
2 green bell peppers, sliced in rings
3 tablespoons (45 ml) tomato paste
2/3 cup (150 ml) tomato purée
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) boiling water Steamed rice
* To make Syrian spice blend, combine 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly ground pepper, 3/4 teaspoon (4 ml) ground cloves, 1/2 tablespoon (7 ml) each ground coriander, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and ground ginger. Store in covered container.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Coat eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil and arrange on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until slightly tender.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat and fry chopped onion for three minutes. Add beef, breaking it up into little pieces, and fry until lightly browned, about five minutes. Season the beef with the pine nuts, blended spices and a little salt.
Grease a baking dish measuring 8 by 12 inches (20 by 30 cm). Arrange a layer of eggplant slices in the dish, reserving a few slices for the top. Fill in with tomato, onion and green pepper slices. Spread beef mixture on top of and around the vegetables.
In a bowl, combine the tomato paste, tomato purée and water, and pour over the mixture in the baking dish. Top with remaining eggplant slices.
Cover with aluminum foil. (At this point, the dish may be cooled and refrigerated for 24 hours, then brought to room temperature for baking.)
Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven, then remove foil. Heat broiler to hot and broil mixture for 10 minutes, until top has caramelized. Trim with extra pine nuts and serve with rice.