Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From the Lebanese Pantry: Stuffed Garlicky Eggplant Preserved in Olive Oil

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Garlic and yogurt.  Possibly two of my ultimate favorite ingredients, ever. Add to those some wal(nuts) and it's pure bliss, for me at least.  The Lebanese pantry is incredibly rich and versatile.  You could potentially have a full meal without having to cook, slice or dice anything- just from the pantry.  And that is practically true for most old civilizations, where the people learned to appreciate the land, enjoy their harvest and preserve it in scrumptious ways for later consumption.  For a civilization dating back more 7,000 BC,  and having gone through a slew of conquests and occupations, each leaving its cultural print, Lebanon as well as the entire Levant region have a phenomenal cuisine.  What I love about it is that people appreciate food and they have a way to use up their harvest with very minimal waste by compoting, preserving, sun-drying, curing, etc., they are able to prepare for the cold winters and still have a healthy fulfilling nutrient-rich diet.

Eggplant Preserve
Split Eggplant

These preserved eggplants are just wonderful.  Using the smaller eggplants, like Italian eggplants, stuffing them in a yogurt mixture and preserving them in a jar of olive oil.  When I was a child, I use to only eat the stuffing of the eggplant preserves as I couldn't eat the actual eggplant.  Today it's a different story.  My parents came to visit a couple of days ago, and brought with them a jar of just "the stuffing" along with some homemade eggplant preserves.   The stuffing is so good, I usually just spread it on a seedy crusty slice of bread, topped with a few more walnuts for extra crunch, such a fulfilling snack.  It makes a great dip with veggies too.  It's made from very simple ingredients, staples of the Lebanese diet: strained yogurt or labne, lots of garlic, salt and crushed walnuts.  Labne can easily be made at home by straining yogurt to remove as much of the whey as possible, yielding a thicker yogurt consistency almost like that of softened butter, or it can found at any Mediterranean store.
Eggplant Preserve Duo

Garlicky Eggplant Preserve

10-12 small Italian eggplants
1 cup labne or strained yogurt (substitute with Greek yogurt if need be)
1 cup walnuts, raw 
5-6 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt (may need another 1/2 tsp, adjust to taste)
2-3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
Extra salt for sprinkling the eggplants, 1-2 tbsp roughly

To prepare the eggplants, remove stems and place them in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes depending on size.  Remove them and let cool before handling.  Once cooled, make a slit down one side keeping the eggplant attached.  Rub the inside with a little salt gently, once all done, let them drain overnight to remove excess water.  
To prepare the stuffing, place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse about 4-6 times until the mixture is crushed.  Add labne and salt and pulse again until well blended.  Scoop out about 2 tsp per eggplant and stuff it in the slit, then press it closed and place in a large glass jar.  Repeat process until all eggplants are used.  Pour olive oil over the eggplants until all are submerged, seal the jar tightly. Refrigerate and leave alone for two weeks.  Enjoy freely with pita or crusty bread.


4 comments:

  1. Just looks amazing! I love eggplants and this looks really easy to make. Can't wait to try it.

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  2. Garlic and yogurt and walnuts? We might be sisters:) I love the Middle-Eastern cuisine (Turkish influence on Serbia is still strong!) and the versatility of the pantry. It always amuses me when meze is served only as a teaser, when I could live on the small tidbits!
    This would work for our family in many ways: three of us adore the eggplant, the middle daughter claims she hates it, but if she can take the filling and smear it on the bread, she would be happy.
    Thanks for the idea! And your photos are fabulous1

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  3. Thanks Melissa.
    Lana .. you made me laugh!

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  4. wow! I am so glad I am finding this recipe! You are so inventive and this is a GREAT stuffing! I am feeling my mouth water as I read this. Anita you are the best!

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