Thursday, October 13, 2011

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

Save your brain; eat eggplant! Eggplant has potent antioxidants, which help protect the lipids in brain cell membranes. It is also an encouraged food on the paleo diet list.

You can make this dish a vegetarian meal, or add Italian sausage to spice it up and make it heartier. Read through the directions before you begin. You can start the eggplant in the oven while you are preparing the filling.

2 large eggplants
Olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, peeled and diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 plum tomato, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, (or double if using fresh herbs)
Fresh parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and pepper
8 oz. of Italian sausage (hot or mild), casings removed (Optional)
1 Jar of organic sugar-free spaghetti sauce, (or make your own)

To Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the leaves from the eggplant and slice them each into two pieces, lengthwise. With the cut side facing up, make a slit in the flesh from 1” from the stem to 1” from the bottom, without cutting all the way down to the skin. Brush the eggplant halves with olive oil on all sides. Place the pieces in an ovenproof pan or dish, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove, but keep the oven on. Using two forks or spoons, widen the slit in the eggplants by pushing on the sides. This will make room for the filling.

While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the filling:
If you are using the sausage, place it in a large skillet, crumbling it up with a fork as it cooks. When it is browned through, remove it onto a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Remove most of the fat from the pan with paper towels.

Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic to the skillet and cook for several minutes. Mix in the Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon of parsley and the bay leaf. Simmer for 5 minutes. Now add the diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 2 more minutes and then turn off heat. Remove the bay leaf.

To assemble:
Mix the drained sausage into the tomato mixture. Generously spoon into the eggplant shells. Top with half slices of tomato and drizzle with a little additional olive oil. Place back into the oven and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the eggplant is fork-tender.

In the meantime, heat up your spaghetti sauce. When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and top with some of the sauce.

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