Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts


There are some dishes that just don’t photograph well. This is one of them. No matter how much I tried to make it pretty, it comes out like a brown and black mess when I take its picture. I guess I could have sprinkled some fresh parsley on it or nestled a few lemon wedges between the eggplant pieces in order to give it some color. But I decided not to. It’s not necessary. Because no matter what the photos look like, this is one of the best dishes you will ever taste. It is, by far, my favorite recipe out of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. And that says a lot. I love just about every recipe in that book.


For starters, it’s an easy eggplant recipe. I don’t know why, but as soon as I see a recipe that calls for salting eggplant pieces and letting them drain in a colander before cooking them, I have an instant reaction of “no way!” I just don’t have the patience for that. The great thing about this recipe is that it simply calls for cutting the eggplant down the middle, scoring the flesh and brushing it with olive oil. From that point on, it just cooks in the oven for a long time, at first on its own and then covered with the ground meat mixture, until it becomes melt-in-your-mouth soft.


If I’ve learned one thing out of this amazing cookbook (and I’ve learned a lot), it is the power of the holy trinity of Middle Eastern spices: cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. When combined, they produce an intoxicating mix that is sweet (from the paprika), earthy (from the cumin), and spicy (from the cinnamon), all at the same time. Along with onions, pine nuts, and parsley, they turn the ground lamb “stuffing” of this dish into something entirely exotic but wonderfully comforting as well.



Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts – From Jerusalem: A Cookbook


4 medium eggplants 
(about 2 pounds/1.2 kg), halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons/90 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 medium onions (12 ounces/340 grams in total), finely chopped
1 pound/500 grams ground lamb
7 tablespoons/50 grams pine nuts
2/3 ounces/20 grams flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons superfine sugar
2/3 cup/150 ml water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

While the eggplants are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.

Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F/195°C. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast for 1 1/2 hours, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.

Sauteed Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar

We get quite a lot of food fads in New York. Some are big and national (like kale or ramps). Some are small and local. The last few weeks have revealed one such small and local fad: fairy tale eggplants. No, they don’t turn into a horse-drawn carriage and whisk you away to the palace ball. Nor do they grant you three wishes. They are simply a breed of eggplants that grows really small, somewhere between 1 and 2 inches.


I had never heard of them before until this fall, when suddenly they appeared at the local markets and I started seeing some online chatter about them (like here and here). Steve and I bought some, of course, and had them simply roasted in the oven. I don’t think it was the best preparation for them, but we appreciated their delicate form and sweet taste.


I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with eggplant. I love to eat it but I’ve always hated cooking it. It seemed to me that every single recipe for eggplant called for salting it and draining the water out of it, or for charring it over an barbecue fire, something most New Yorkers can only dream of. Whenever I tried to cook eggplant it always ended undercooked or burned.

So, I generally stayed away from eggplant until I found this recipe. It turns out, you don’t have to go crazy with pre-cooking preparations for eggplant. You can just cook it on the spot, with a combination of sautéing and steaming in a single pan. No salting, no charring, and no draining. Since then, I’ve made this as a side dish countless times. Though I still dream of a barbecue fire where I can char eggplant for some delicious baba ganoush.


Sautéed Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar – Adapted from

Note: This recipe works best with long and skinny eggplants, such as japanese eggplants. If you have the more traditional thicker dark purple variety, slice it crosswise in 1.5 inch sections.

3-4 japanese eggplants (or other variety, see note above)
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Slice eggplants lengthwise in half.  Lightly salt and pepper the slices and heat a sauté pan for which you have a lid over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and when it shimmers add eggplant, cut side down. Lower heat to medium and cook, covered, for about 6-7 minutes. Turn eggplant slices cut side up, recover the pan and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until eggplant is soft.

Turn the eggplant slices one more time, cut side down. Turn heat off. Immediately add balsamic vinegar in the pan. Cover the pan and shake back and forth for a few seconds. Let it rest, covered for 2-3 minutes, until the vinegar caramelizes a little.

Serve eggplant slices with balsamic vinegar sauce spooned on top and sprinkled with a little flaky sea salt and additional ground pepper.