12 September 2007
what's cooking wednesday: calabrian stuffed eggplant

Eggplant by Gare and Kitty on FlickrIt's about that time when melanzane (eggplants or aubergines) are everywhere I look, so I'm passing along one of my favorite ways to prepare them.

I'm not going to lie to you. I would never have even attempted to do anything with eggplant when I lived in America. I just wasn't brought up with it, although maybe I had it once in an eggplant parmesan or something. Obviously it didn't leave much of an impression if I did.

Now I'll eat these pretty purple fruits any way imaginable: grilled, in a sauce, baked, or as today's What's Cooking Wednesday, stuffed.

Combine my love for stuffed eggplant with the fact that tomorrow we're on Spaghetti Strike, and I thought that this would be a good recipe to get you through the pasta-less day. I'm giving you time to buy ingredients, you see--for buying and storing tips, go here.

The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family closely related to the tomato, and just like it's red, juicy, fruit of a cousin, it, too, was at one time considered poisonous. In fact, the Italian name "melanzana" is said to come from the Latin "mela insana," or poisonous (literally unhealthy) apple.

The eggplant isn't native to these parts, though, as it originated in India and arrived in Italy with the Arabs during the Middle Ages. Since then, Calabrians have been throwing them in just about every dish imaginable--always with delicious results.

One of my very favorite things that P's mom makes is melanzane ripiene--and as P will be the first to tell you, the traditional, old school Calabrese way is decidedly *without* meat, so that's what we'll be doing today. Also, frying is the usual method around here, although of course you can also make these baked.

I must note that in researching this post, I came across a version by Cream Puffs in Venice that is quite similar to P's mom's recipe--I don't know the exact Italian heritage of Ivonne, the author of that gorgeous, mouth-watering blog, but from this recipe, it's obvious to me that her mom has ties to the "toe."

Viva la Calabria!

Stuffed Eggplant
(Melanzane Ripiene)

Stuffed Eggplant8 small (size of your hand or smaller) eggplants
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
About a handful of cubed provolone
2 eggs
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup basil, chopped
salt to taste
oil for frying

Wash and dry them and cut them in half length-wise.

Although in Ivonne's recipe, the directions are to boil the eggplants as one piece, P's mom does them in parts. So, from the raw eggplant halves, cut out the flesh being careful not to come too close to the skin, in fact leaving about 1/8 inch of flesh attached to it.

Boil the skins for about 5 minutes until just tender and then transfer to strainer. After a few minutes, place skins on paper towels, open-side down, until ready to use again.

Meanwhile, chop the flesh of the eggplant into very small pieces and then boil for about 5 minutes, also until tender. Transfer to strainer, and be sure to squeeze out excess water well.

In a mixing bowl, put breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, and salt with the eggplant flesh and mix well. Try a little bit of the mix to make sure the seasoning, especially salt, is OK.

Now take the eggplant shells and poke gently with a fork in a few spots; P's mom says so this is so the eggplants don't explode while frying. I'd rather not see that happen, so I do it too.

Lightly salt the eggplant shells and then fill them with the mixture; you may have to spread out the filling a bit to be sure it reaches all ends of the shell. Before you pack it all in though, tuck a cube or two of provolone into the stuffing of each eggplant. P's mom says this helps things stay together. Again, I'm a fan of that, so I do it too.

FYI, you want the filling so that it's fairly level with the shell, a little domed on the top.

Now you're ready to fry, so heat up about an inch of your favorite frying oil (P's mom uses olive oil but vegetable would work too). Once hot, put the eggplants in stuffing-side up. Fry for about 5 minutes or until golden brown, flip, and then fry the other side for a few minutes as well.

Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

At this point, you can put these in a tomato-based sauce if you like, but we like to just eat them this way--and usually with our hands like good old-fashioned street food, only at home.

It's a lot of work to be sure, but it's *so* worth it.

Buon appetito!

*About the photos:

The first photo is used under a Creative Commons License from Gare and Kitty's photostream on Flickr. The second is mine all mine taken with a web cam (thus the less than stellar quality). Forgive me, please, but things will get better soon. I found out yesterday that I have a Camera Fairy!

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Blogger Karina said...

You managed to ALMOST make me want to try this recipe. Unfortunately, not even a delicious sounding recipe can get me to appreciate eggplant. I've tried time and again, but I just don't like the taste.

I'll take the stuffing though! :D

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try this!

Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for this recipe. The last time I made egg-plant, years ago now, I was a young bachelor and tried to impress a young woman with my prowess in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I'd consumed rather too much red-wine before starting the dish. The results resembled melted plastic and didn't taste much better either. Truth be told, that young woman moved on, no doubt hungry, as she didn't touch the portion on her plate!

Blogger Leanne said...

I love eggplants, anything to do with them, especially the pasta norma they have down here as a Sicilian speciality.
Your receipe sounds so tasty and easy enough that I am going to print this off and go and buy some melanzane tomorrow from the market!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Karina, well, I gave it my best shot. You're a good sport to keep trying, though--more than most would do for a food ;)

Beth, let me know how they come out!

Greg, ew. At least you didn't poison her, which is always a mood killer ;) Thanks for sharing!

Leanne, mmm, Pasta Norma...another of my favorites. Perhaps that'll be next week's dish....

Anonymous Maria said...

My mom's recipie is pretty much the same, although she adds hard boiled eggs, chopped sopresatta and shredded mozzarella cheese, and we bake ours instead of frying. I'll have to try them fried next time...actually I have some eggplants from my dad's garden sitting at home...I think that'll be dinenr tonight. :-)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Maria, wow! That's is one STUFFED melanzana! Minus the eggs, I've had stuffed peppers made like that (in a South Philly row home, of course). So good!

Blogger JennieBoo said...

I love eggplant parmesan, so I'm sure I'll love this, too.

I printed out the recipe and will hopefully try it out this weekend.

Looks so yummy!

Blogger Karen Cole said...

You are dangerous for my figure!!!


Blogger Calabrisella said...

that is probably by far the prettiest looking melanzane plant i've ever seen... !!!

Blogger Joe said...

Ohhh, I love eggplant! Can't wait to try this ... maybe this weekend. Love your blog, I'm hooked. I have family in Ischia and love to stay connected to Italy as much as possible. Now I just wish I could learn the language better.


Anonymous Tina said...

I'm allergic to eggplant but I'm sure the recipe is lovely! :-)

Blogger Poppy Fields said...

This sounds so good! And where does one find a camera fairy? :)

Blogger Jér said...

I hadn't ever tasted eggplant until I lived in Italy either, but it was love at first bite. Eggplant is so versatile. It can be baked, fried, grilled, boiled, braised, breaded, and even though it tastes completely different each way, it's still just as delicious. I've never had it stuffed, but I will really have to try it.

Blogger janey wan said...

I'm not fond of eggplant but hungry at the moment and would eat most anything, I'm not a snoopy eater.
My family is so hesitate to try new things. When I say family referring to SRC and the dogs. lol

I want a camera fairy!! I looked at cameras yesterday think I will get a sony, lens from src's film camera (what the heck are they called, forget) will work on SLR camera. Sounds like a disease huh?

Blogger Shan said...

Oh yum! This looks so good. Want to come for dinner? We'll do pot luck, you bring that. I'll invite the girls!

Blogger SabineM said...


Blogger Anali said...

Both of these pictures are beautiful! My mom makes the best eggplant parmesan. I can smell it just thinking about it.

I never knew that eggplant was related to the tomato or that it was once considered poisonous. Very informative post. I started thinking about zucchini and how it can be used as a savory or sweet. I wonder if anyone has ever used eggplant in a sweet dish or dessert?

Blogger lacey kaye said...

Since it's unlikely I will leave off my cooking strike to make this, I particularly appreciated the history and links you shared.

Thanks! And yes, it looks yummy. I'd just rather pay someone else to do it.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jennie, give it a whirl! It's a great vegetarian recipe, eh?

Karen, sorry! Everything in moderation ;)

Calabrisella, isn't it adorable? As the photographer explained on the Flickr page, you really see most of the life cycle of the eggplant in it, which is cool. I wish I had taken it!

Joe, or should I say Giuseppe? Glad you found me and that you're enjoying yourself. Best of luck with the melanzane!

Tina, really? I don't think I've ever heard of anyone else allergic to eggplant. I knew you were special, but this is taking it a bit too far ;)

Meredith, hah, I wish I knew how I found mine--dumb luck (and actually lots of blog-hopping). I'm being mysterious aren't I? Hmm....

Jér, I completely agree--eggplant always tastes differently in the different dishes. Do you like it on pizza too (grilled epplant, not the pickled stuff)? Mmm....I like the pickled stuff too, just not on pizza :)

Janey, you crack me up. I don't have an adventurous house either, so I hear you on that. I mean, the dogs would pretty much eat anything I'm sure, but the OH, not so much.

I'm like you with buying electronics, btw--all those letters just get all confuddled in me head ;)

Shan, this would be a *great* potluck dish. I can't wait to meet all the girls! I really need to get to Canada. I've never been, you know....

Sabine, wow! I can feel your excitement! Thanks :)

Anali, interesting question. I know some people have tried to put tomatoes in desserts with varying success, but since eggplant can be quite bitter, I imagine the closest you could get to a dessert would be a kind of bread (I'm thinking like zucchini bread). Anyone ever tried it? I see Googling in my future....

Lacey, hah! Well I certainly wouldn't want to be the "scab" in your cooking strike--best to just go find a great Italian restaurant (preferably with Calabrian roots) ;)

Blogger Gil said...

Sounds like a great way to cook eggplant. I have found that some wine or beer makes eating eggplant more palatable!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Gil, I think your advice is really quite a good guideline in general ;)

1st love your pic - do not be shocked but I have never seen an aubergine in real life hanging on the vine... I know terrible isn't it. However I love to cook with them and have printed out your recipe and can't wait to try it!!!
I a few weeks back I posted a recipe for Aubergine Caviar on my blog that you might like :)
Otherwise made the amoretti's but will send you an email re that
speak soon

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job. Looks so delicious :) We do it a different way, but then all families and regions have their own version. Yours looks fantastic!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Erika, I don't think I've ever seen an eggplant on a vine either! We don't grow them although plenty of people around here do...I'll have to go looking one day. Aubergine Caviar...hmm....

Maryann, as far as I know, my grandmother didn't even make these (I never had them at home)--would be interesting to know how she would've done it, but she's gone. Her first cousin, though, happens to be coming to visit me this weekend, so perhaps she knows the family secrets ;)

Blogger Jen said...

This looks AMAZING! Now I know you love "all things tomato" and I love tomatoes, but I could REALLY do an "all things eggplant" website, I love them that much. YUM. I'd better go eat lunch.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jen, ooh, I'd definitely read that website ;)

Anonymous antonella said...

Wow, I just had dim sum and one of the plates was stuffed eggplant. Of course, it was the narrow purple eggplant and it was ripieno with shrimp. Yum.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Antonella, yum!!!

Blogger sarala said...

That sure sounds good. I have eggplants growing in the garden but I doubt any of them will be large enough for this recipe. I'll have to try this someday.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Sarala, they don't have to be *too* large, but yes, you do need room to stuff. I hope you get to try it!

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