James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Stuffed Eggplant Italian – Greek Style

By Greg Patent for Lee Montana Newspapers

Eggplants, those sexy deep purple globe-shaped vegetables, are plentiful in markets right now, and they are begging to be cooked and enjoyed while their flavor is at its peak.

Where do Eggplants come from?

The beautiful thing about eggplant is its adaptability to cuisines from all over the world. Although they originated in tropical Asia, cooks from Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, Russia, the United States, and many other countries too numerous to mention, have all added their tastes to this most easy-to-get-along with vegetable.

Eggplant shapes, sizes, and colors vary all over the place. Japanese eggplants, typically pale purple, are long and skinny. Many Asian eggplants are white or green and may be round or oval. But regardless of their morphology (oops, my science training just slipped out!) you can cook eggplant in many different ways.

What Dishes can you Make with Eggplant?

They make great dips such as baba ghanouj or eggplant caviar (something my Russian grandmother made); when sliced, they are terrific dipped in egg, breadcrumbs and fried; they make great last-minute additions to stews; and they are terrific stuffed.

The perfect eggplants for stuffing are the familiar globe variety, each weighing about 8 ounces. You cut them in half the long way and sprinkle them with salt to draw out some of the water. After rinsing and patting them dry, you give them a quick bake that cooks the flesh and makes it scoopable to become part of the stuffing. This much you can do a day or two ahead.

What makes these stuffed eggplants Italian is cooked farro, Romano cheese, and pine nuts. The sole Greek contribution is Feta. All the other ingredients: Olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, onions, peppers, oregano, basil, parsley, and spices are commonly cooked into dishes from both countries. Expect raves!

Stuffed Eggplant Italian-Greek Style


The Eggplants

  • 4 medium-size eggplants (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • salt to sprinkle with salt to draw out water.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

The Farro

  • 1/4 cup pearled farro
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

The Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups yellow onions chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow, orange, or red bell pepper diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped peeled fresh Roma tomatoes or 1 cup chopped canned Romas
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves (basically a handful)
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves coarsely chopped
  • 8 slices fresh Roma tomatoes
  • Parsley or basil leaves to garnish
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts toasted in a skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil


For the eggplants

  •  Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise through the stem. With a sharp paring knife, score the eggplant flesh in a crisscross pattern. Set the eggplant cut side up on a tray and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand about 1 hour, then rinse under cool running water and dry the eggplant with paper towels.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Brush the eggplant all over with olive oil and set the halves flesh side up, spaced apart, on the parchment. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until very lightly browned.  (You can prep the eggplant to this point a day or two ahead. When completely cool, drape them loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before stuffing them).

For the farro

  • Combine farro with the water and salt in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Give the farro a stir, cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low. Cook about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the farro is tender but slightly chewy. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

For the stuffing

  • Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (12-inch) over medium heat. When hot, stir in the cumin and chile flakes and cook about 1 minute, stirring, until aromatic. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, 5 to 8  minutes. Stir in the garlic, bell pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook until the bell pepper is crisp/tender, 5 minutes or so.
  • Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cooked farro, tomatoes, 3/4 cup of the Romano, all the Feta, and the basil and parsley.
  •  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position.

Putting it all together

  • To stuff the eggplant, scoop most of the flesh out of the baked eggplants and stir into the cooked vegetables. Taste the stuffing carefully and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Pile the stuffing into the eggplant cases, mounding it in the center. Arrange the eggplant in a rimmed baking dish that will fit them snugly.
  • Bake about 45 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let the eggplant cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with pine nuts, garnish each with a tomato slice and parsley or basil leaf, and serve.

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