Saturday, September 19, 2015


Let’s push the restart button on summer. In southern Spain, we didn’t have summer, we had a preview of desertification—July temperatures were the highest on record and August almost as hot.

The vegetable garden didn’t die—drip irrigation kept plants alive. But the tomato, eggplant and pepper plants simply didn’t flower or set fruit. It was too hot for bees to do their job, so zucchini, cuke and melon vines had no pollination. (Though, blessedly, the mosquitoes deserted too.)

Eggplant beginning to flower.

Now that the weather has cooled somewhat, plants have revived. I’m picking eggplants, peppers and tomatoes and there are more to come. Now’s the time to enjoy those summer vegetables! Here are recipes for stuffed eggplant and for fresh tomato sauce cooked in the oven.

Eggplant shells are stuffed with meat and topped with grated cheese.

Meat-Stuffed Eggplant
Berenjenas Rellenas de Carne

You can use the ground meat of your choice—beef, pork, lamb, or chicken--for this tasty stuffed eggplant, spiced with freshly grated nutmeg. I prefer ground chicken thighs. With a salad on the side, it makes a light luncheon or supper dish. Cured Manchego cheese is best for topping the eggplant.

Serves 6.

3 medium eggplants (about 12 ounces each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped bacon
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
4 cloves chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pound ground meat
1 teaspoon salt
Grated fresh nutmeg (about 1/16 teaspoon)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh or canned tomato sauce
½ cup water
3 ounces grated Manchego cheese (1 cup)
Smoked pimentón (paprika)
Tomato sauce to accompany the eggplant (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Remove and discard stems and leaves from eggplants. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Slash the flesh at 1 ½-inch intervals. Place the eggplants in a single layer in an oven pan and brush with 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, place the eggplant halves cut-side down, two at a time, on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Drain off accumulated juices.

While eggplant is baking, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and sauté the bacon 1 minute. Add the onion and garlic and fry 3 minutes. Add the cumin seed and the ground meat and continue frying on high heat, breaking up the meat, until it loses its red color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt, nutmeg, pepper, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

Ready for stuffing.
When eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and reserve the shells. Chop the flesh and add it to the meat in the skillet. Uncover the skillet and cook 5 minutes more or until most of liquid has cooked away.

Arrange the eggplant shells in a single layer in baking pan. Spoon the meat filling into the shells. Top with the grated cheese. Sprinkle with pimentón. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and filling is bubbling, 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed eggplant is served with millet pilaf (recipe here).

Roast chopped fresh tomatoes to make sauce.

Roasted Fresh Tomato Sauce
Salsa de Tomate al Horno

While the oven was on to finish the stuffed eggplant, I roasted chopped tomatoes with olive oil, then pureed and sieved it to make a thick tomato sauce to serve with the eggplant.
Use about 3 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Cut out the cores, slash the skin on the bottoms and either drop into boiling water or microwave on high until skins pull off easily. Allow to cool, then slip off the skins. Chop the tomatoes coarsely in a food processor.

Spread 1/3 cup olive oil in a shallow baking pan. Add 1 cup chopped onions. Roast in a medium-hot oven (375ºF) until onions are slightly browned. Add all of the chopped tomatoes and 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper. Add a bay leaf and any herbs—parsley, basil, oregano, celery. Bake the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until they are thick, about 45 minutes.

Let the tomatoes cool slightly. Remove the bay leaf and garlics, then puree the tomatoes in food processor or blender and put through a sieve. Serve the sauce hot, room temperature or cold.

Tomato sauce.


  1. Son and daughter home from Uni so tried this for lunch.A couple of aubergines and some nice Scotch beef mince and cheddar cheese,worked a treat.Served with some saute potatoes,looks as though it's going to become a regular.Thanks

    1. vrj: So glad you liked the stuffed aubergines. Try the same stuffing mix for bell peppers, courgette, tomatoes.