You will have no need for a side dish to go with a healthy serving of this protein & vitamin rich baked eggplant stuffed with Gruyere cheese, baby portobello mushrooms, red bell peppers, onions & tomatoes cooked in a red wine clam sauce!
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Step 1: INGREDIENTS (4 Servings)
- 1 *large Eggplant
- 2 cans (14.5 ounce cans) No Salt Added Basil, Garlic & Oregano diced tomatoes
- 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed of salt
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 TBS EVOO
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, stem & seeds removed, skin peeled, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese (or cheese of your choice; Fontina or Havarti might be good substitutes)
- 1/4 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan Cheese (for topping)
- 1/2 cup **Red Wine (the good stuff; the kind you drink - I used Italy's Bella Sera :Pinot Noir)
- 3/4 cup Panko Italian or Japanese seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground peppercorns (black, or a melange)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme
- 1 TBS fresh Basil leaves, chopped
- 1 TBS Blue Agave (added at the end of cooking, after tasting sauce, as a sweetener)
- *NOTE: I decided on the spur of the moment to make this recipe today, and this is obviously not the right time of the year to find big firm fresh eggplants in the local supermarket. A nice large eggplant weighs around 2 to 2-1/4 lbs, and all I could find were small organic eggplants that weighed about 1-1/4 lbs. This threw off my calculations and I ended up making enough stuffing for at least 1 very large eggplant. No matter, though. I froze what I did not use in this recipe.
- **If you are planning to make this recipe and do not want to use wine, you could substitute 4 ounces of clam broth.
Step 2: PREPARE YOU INGREDIENTS
Prepare the Eggplant for stuffing:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat.
- Split the eggplant in half and add both halves to the boiling water, being careful not to let the water spill over the top of the pan (you might want to place the eggplant halves in the pot in cold water first, just to measure out how much water you will need).
- Parboil the eggplant for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the flesh becomes soft enough to spoon out of the shells, then remove eggplant halves from the hot water, rinse in cold tap water, and set aside to cool enough for you to be able to scoop out the inner flesh.
- Scoop out all but about 1/2" of the flesh from the shells (leave about a 1/2" border of eggplant in the bottom of and around the side of each shell). Chop the flesh that you have scooped out of the shells (to be used in the stuffing) and set both the chopped eggplant and the eggplant shells aside while you continue with the recipe.
Peel the Red Bell Pepper:
- I never gave much thought about trying to peel a raw bell pepper before making this dish, although I have always been very much aware of how difficult it is to to digest the tough bell pepper skins. However, after poking around on the Internet, I discovered that one could actually peel a raw bell pepper with an old fashioned potato peeler rather easily, thus preventing the need to partially cook one in order to do so. Try to pick out the smoothest bell peppers that you can find because you will not be able to remove the skin from inside the grooves or crevices of the pepper until you cut it up. Remove the pepper top or cap, and the pointy bottom, then pull out and discard the seeds. Cut the pepper into quarters; slice (remove) and discard the whitish veins, and cut the remaining flesh into thin slices.
Get everything else ready to cook:
- Smash, peel, and mince the garlic.
- Thinly slice the red onion.
- Wipe the mushrooms and slice them (cut large slices in half or quarters).
- Chop the fresh basil leaves.
- Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher until they almost become a "chunky" sauce (I would use petite diced tomatoes, but I could not find any no-salt or low salt canned tomatoes with the flavors I wanted). (You could use a blender or food processor if you want to go through the trouble of cleaning one up later)!
- Grate the Gruyere cheese, portion out the Parmesan (for topping) and mix your spices together.
- Portion out the 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs and the 1/2 cup of red wine.
- Open the can or jar of Anchovies; select to plump fillets, rinse them under cold water and set aside.
- Until I have reached this stage of preparation, I have kept the raw clams refrigerated. Now that it is time to begin making the Red Wine Clam Sauce stuffing, you can measure out 1 cup of chopped clams (with liquid) and have them ready to add to the sauce (see next step). Immediately refrigerate or freeze any unused raw clams!
Step 3: PREPARE THE RED WINE CLAM SAUCE STUFFING
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly spray a 13"x 9" casserole dish with cooking spray (or specifically, a casserole dish large enough to hold the two halves of an eggplant placed side by side in the dish).
Place 2 TBS of EVOO in a heavy non-stick pan or cast iron skillet (my preference) and heat over medium-low heat.
- When oil is hot, add the Anchovy fillets and mash them down with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir and mash until they blend into the oil like a paste.
- Add the minced garlic and all of the spices and herbs (except the chopped Basil) and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the onion, bell pepper & mushrooms; raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens (about 3 or 4 minutes).
- Add the wine; stir in the chopped clams (with liquid), Gruyere cheese, breadcrumbs and chopped eggplant; Stir to mix, then add the chopped Basil and 1/2 of the diced tomatoes (reserve the other half to pour over the stuffed eggplant). Cook until heated through.
- Taste - add any seasonings that you feel necessary (I felt my sauce needed to be sweeter, so this is where I added the 1 TBS of Blue Agave syrup (put 1/2 of the Agave in the sauce being heated, and the other 1/2 half in the reserved sauce).
Remove pan from burner and stuff and bake the eggplant halves (see next step). (You could make this sauce ahead of time and keep it refrigerated for a day or two, but then you MUST use it or freeze it).
Step 4: STUFF & BAKE EGGPLANT SHELLS
- Spread a couple of ladles of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish that has been coated with cooking spray.
- Place the two halves of eggplant side by side (facing in opposite directions) in the bottom of the casserole dish (If the eggplant halves will not lay flat, you may have to shave a little of off the bottom of each shell with a sharp knife; however, be careful - you do not want to cut all the way through the bottom).
- Place as much stuffing as you can into and on top of each shell, mounding it as you do so.
- Top with the shaved or shredded Parmesan and bake at 350 F for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese topping is beginning to brown and the skin on the side of the eggplants can easily be pierced with a kitchen fork.
- Remove dish from oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Step 5: TIME TO EAT . . .
Although I have pictured one baked stuffed eggplant half on this platter, I have cut it in half again since 1/4 of each half is more than enough to be served as an entree. Serve while hot, along with a glass of your favorite beverage (I enjoyed mine with a glass of Italy's Bella Sera Pinot Noir!
I have calculated the nutritional value of this recipe to the best of my ability using the MyFitnessPal Recipe Analyzer. Click on the image to enlarge it.