10 October 2011

Mediterranean Feast

This post is going to be short and sweet. We are 4 days from leaving for New York (both the city and upstate), and my time is a little limited. I wanted to share some pictures and recipes from my most recent experiment. My favorite guinea pig Michael and his partner came over for a long-awaited Sunday dinner. They are nice enough to be watching our kitties while we're away, so I wanted to make something worth their while.

Michael was the original guest at my weekly Sunday dinners and it's been awhile since we dined together. Per our old tradition, I tried out something new on him. I recently came across this kale and tomato salad recipe and decided I needed to make it again. I also had a couple of pounds of ground beef in the freezer that needed to be used before we went away. I'm a little sick of our usual ground beef recipes (taco meat, meat sauce, etc), so I put my thinking cap on and came up with a dish that I've had at Ya Hala before and have very fond memories of--sheikh el mahshi. It is a stuffed eggplant dish using ground beef (or lamb), pine nuts, onions, and spices. I did a little adjusting using what I had on hand. They whole thing is covered in tomato sauce, then baked until tender.

Being that it's fall now, I had to make bread, of course. I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe for easy grilled flatbread, a favorite of Michael's, and rounded it out with some simple roasted cauliflower.

While this dish is more traditionally stuffed eggplant, the lack of small eggplants at the store forced me
to layer like a lasagna

Flatbread has risen
Sometimes the simplest things in life...forgot the feta, though

Right after coming out of the oven
Honestly, I could have taken a prettier picture (like before tearing into my flatbread, as shown here), but I was hungry and it looked so good I forgot
Like I mentioned in the above caption, while this is traditionally stuffed, I didn't see any small eggplants to use for stuffing. I like the way it came out being layered like a lasagna. Before layering, I dried the eggplant out a bit in the oven so there wouldn't be excess moisture. I might pan fry it next time.

Sheik el Mahshi...sorta

Here's my adapted recipe (from about a million I found on the Internet) for those of us not lucky enough to have a Lebanese guide to this dish...

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
About 3 T pine nuts
1-2 t cinnamon
1-2 t coriander
salt and pepper to taste (don't overdo it since you'll be covering in tomato sauce)

Eggplants (about 2 medium), sliced into 1/4 discs
1 can of good tomato sauce (I prefer Muir Glen organic)
Fresh oregano (again, not traditional, but I had it and thought it would taste good)


Heat a teaspoon of oil in a large saute pan until hot, add onion and saute until almost translucent. Add pine nuts and cook until starting to brown slightly. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. At this point, I drained off the excess fat, but depending on what you used, you may not need to. Return to pan, add cinnamon, coriander, salt and pepper and cook until completed coated. Remove from heat.

While meat is resting, layer slices of eggplants on broiler pan (or wire rack rested on pan), and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Using a baking dish large enough for your eggplant, add some oil to the bottom of the pan to coat, then layer the eggplant on the bottom. Once you have few gaps left, scoop about 3/4 of the ground beef mixture onto the eggplant and distribute evenly. Layer the remaining slices of eggplant on top of the meat mixture and pour the can of tomato sauce over the top, spreading evenly. I rinsed my can out with a little white wine because, why not? Scoop the remaining meat mixture in the middle of the dish, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for about 15*20 minutes. After 15-20 minutes the eggplant should be getting soft, so remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender, but still firm and the flavors have combined. Let set for about 10-15 minutes, sprinkle with the fresh oregano and serve with brown rice, or bulgur wheat, and plain yogurt.

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