Stuffed Eggplant (version XIX)

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2 (6-inch) eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for brushing)
1 zucchini
1 large orange bell pepper
2 ribs celery
2 ounces finely chopped red onion
3 ounces sliced button mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1 large fresh tomato, finely chopped
3 ounces mozzarella cheese (plus 2 ounces for garnish)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (plus 3 sprigs for garnish)
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each of the eggplants into 2-inch-thick discs. Lay them cut side up and cut a circle in the white flesh about an inch from the skin. Score the inside of the circle - this will make it easier to scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

Brush eggplant flesh with olive oil and bake slices on a tray in oven 15 to 20 minutes. Turn each one upside down halfway through cooking so that the bottoms don't get too brown.

When flesh feels soft, remove slices from oven and allow them to cool.

Roughly chop zucchini, bell pepper and celery. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped red onion, zucchini, pepper, celery and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables start to soften. Stir in tomato, taste vegetables for seasoning and allow mixture to cool.

Dice mozzarella into small cubes and add to the cooled vegetables, along with the chopped basil. Gently remove flesh from insides of eggplants, taking care to leave about an inch on the bottom of each disc (creating a shell). Chop cooked eggplant removed from shell and add to other vegetables. Spoon mix into eggplant shells, dividing it between the four.

Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese. Stuffed eggplants are now ready for the oven (or to be placed in refrigerator ready to heat). To serve, bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.



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