Recipe: Lamb with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

20 Apr

This is a Lebanese dish for saucy eggplant (and lamb) lovers. Lamb and eggplant are natural partners and frequent appear together in Middle Eastern, Turkish, Greek and Balkan dishes. There are many recipes for this as a stuffed eggplant dish but I like this deconstructed version, which layers the filling on top. As it all cooks together, the lamb and tomatoes season and soften the eggplant below, resulting in comforting, cinnamon-scented mouthfuls that are enhanced by the taste and texture of buttery pine nuts.

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Lamb and Eggplant

Ingredients:

olive oil
3 small-medium eggplants, thinly sliced
garlic powder
salt and pepper

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
salt and pepper
1 lb. (450 gr.) ground lamb
1 can (14 oz./411 gr.) petite diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz./411 gr.) tomato sauce

1/3-1/2 c. pine nuts
chopped parsley (optional; I forgot it this time around!)

Preparation

1. Cook the eggplant slices in olive oil (in a singe layer, working in batches) in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until they are golden, tending to them carefully so they don’t burn. You will likely need to add more oil to the pan with every new layer. Place the eggplant slices in the bottom of a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish and sprinkle them with a little garlic powder, salt, and pepper as you layer them, while they are still warm. (I have a garlic salt grinder and sometimes grind that over the layers, along with some black pepper, so that’s another option.)

2. In another pan, cook the onion in about 2 tbsp. olive oil until soft. (Note: If you’d like to up the heat factor of this dish, you could also add a pinch of red-pepper/chili flakes along with the onions.) Add the minced garlic and cook a couple minutes more, then add the cinnamon and allspice and cook for another couple minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Add the ground lamb to the pan and cook until no longer pink; drain,* then add the cooked onions, the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Check the seasonings after about 10 minutes, and add more cinnamon, allspice, salt, or pepper as needed.

3. Melt a bit of butter or olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and sauté the pine nuts until they start to turn golden.

4. Spoon the lamb mixture over the eggplant slices in the baking dish and sprinkle the pine nuts on top. The photo below shows this step halfway through.

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4. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) until bubbling, about 30 minutes.

5. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve with vermicelli rice pilaf. I also like to eat the lamb and eggplant (and the rice) with plain full-fat yogurt on the side, too.

*In the United States, the lamb sometimes requires draining. If your lamb is leaner, you can add the ground lamb directly to the cooked onions in the pan and skip the draining part.

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