Succulent Sukkot Recipes: Stuffed Eggplant in Olive Oil
By Clifford A. Wright, Mediterranean Vegetables
Immediately following the fast of Yom Kippur, Jews the world prepare to celebrate Sukkot by constructing a sukkah in preparation for the joyous feast that begins four days later. Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is the harvest festival mentioned in the Torah (Leviticus 23:34-39). Clifford A. Wright’s "Mediterranean Vegetables" is a great choice for this holiday. It is subtitled "A Cook's ABC of Vegetables and Their Preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, with More than 200 Authentic Recipes for the Home Cook."
"There really is no difference between Jewish cuisine and the local cuisine in which it finds itself. What makes it different, is it is almost exclusively connected with holidays and the self-realization on the part of the Jewish community that these dishes are special to those holidays."
Because the "dining room" of the sukkah is farther away from the area of food preparation, traditional dishes for this holiday are easily transportable, one-dish stews and casseroles like tsimmes, borscht, stuffed cabbage or kibbeh. Stuffed vegetables are a popular choice, particularly in Israel, where every Sephardic and Asian culture has a favorite recipe. "Mediterranean Vegetables" contains delicious recipes such as stuffed artichokes, eggplant, grape leaves, mushrooms, onions, chard and yellow peppers.
Most fascinating is the history of each vegetable through the ages. In Sicily, ingesting eggplant was once thought to lead to insanity, and it was called "mad apple." Below is a wonderful recipe for stuffed eggplant from Turkey. In Turkey a whole class of foods is called zeytinagli, meaning "olive oil foods." It is especially convenient as it is meant to be served at room temperature, and delicious even if you are not eating in a Sukkah.
1. Cut off the stem end of the eggplant and save this as a "lid." Hollow out the eggplant by removing the seeds and flesh, being careful not to puncture the skin. Reserve the eggplant pulp to make another dish such as eggplant fritters. Place the hollowed-out eggplants in a bowl or stew pot filled with salted water and let them leach their bitter juices for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry inside and out with paper towels.
2. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about eight minutes. Add the drained rice and pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is well-coated with oil, about two minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the water, the chopped tomato, currants, pepper, allspice, mint and dill. Stir, reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, but is still a little hard, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar.
3. Stuff the eggplants with the rice, not too lightly, not too loosely. Replace the "lid" of the eggplant, and arrange the stuffed eggplants in a deep casserole, side by side. Divide the remaining 1 cup water, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt among the three stuffed eggplants, cover, and cook until the eggplants are soft but still maintain their shape, about 1 1/4 hours. Let the eggplants cool in the casserole. Serve sliced at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
3 large eggplants (about 3 1_2 pounds)