6 (Italian or Japanese) eggplants, 6 to 7 inches long by 2 to 21/2 inches wide
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 slices day-old Italian bread (enough to make 2 cups bread crumbs)
3 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 large Italian green olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil and Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife, carefully scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/8 inch for the shells. The shells now resemble tiny ballet slippers, or "scarpini."

Dice the eggplant pulp and place in a colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cover with a plate and a glass of water for weight. Allow to drain for 30 minutes. Place eggplant shells upside down on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, tear the bread into small pieces (or use a food processor) to make fresh bread crumbs. In a large bowl, combine the crumbs, tomatoes, eggs, olives, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, capers and pepper. Set aside.

Using paper towels, pat dry the drained shells and pulp. In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the eggplant pulp, onion and garlic for 10 minutes.

Add the eggplant mixture to the bread crumb mixture and mix well. Divide the filling among the eggplant shells, mounding it high. Place eggplant shells in a single layer in an oiled baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until tops are crisp. Bake longer for crispier shells. Serve hot or cold as an entrée. Or cut and serve as appetizers.

Makes 6 entrée-size servings or 24 appetizers.

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