One of the aspects of gardening I appreciate most is the social one. I know, this may sound strange; but if you’re a gardener you know what I mean. When you garden, you end up talking passionately with other gardeners and trading produce like young boys trade baseball cards (or at least they did when I was young).
If you’re lucky, you grow different things than your friends do….that way when the crops are really prolific, you end up with produce you didn’t grow and your friends end up with a harvest they didn’t grow. It’s a wonderful way to build relationships!
“When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree; when drinking water, remember who dug the well.”
~ Vietnamese Proverb
Over the weekend I came into an abundance of end-of-season eggplant; so I spent part of my day today making Greek-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant. I’ve made this recipe previously; but never written down the process. Today was a good day to take my time documenting the recipe and an even better day to share it with you!
I began by preparing the eggplant……First I cut the stem end off and then I cut them in half lengthwise. I used a peeler to strip away some of the peel (I left some stripes of skin on the eggplant because Jeff likes them without the skin, but there are important nutrients in the skin – so it’s my compromise). Next I used a paring knife to score a “well” in each half and then a spoon to scoop out the flesh. I saved the flesh in a bowl to add to the filling later.
After preparing the eggplant “boats,” I drizzled them with some Gazebo Room Dressing (about 1/3 cup total for all 7 eggplants) and roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes (some were smaller so I took them out sooner).
I cut the skinless boneless chicken breast into 1 1/2″ cubes and mixed it with 1/3 cup of Gazebo Room Dressing. I set the chicken aside to marinate while I worked on the filling.
Then I boiled a pot of water to cook the orzo for the filling. While the pasta cooked, I prepared the vinaigrette using lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, minced thyme, coarse Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. When the orzo finished cooking, I drained it and stirred about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette into the orzo and set it aside to cool. When it was cool, I added 1/2 cup of currants, 1/2 cup of pine nuts and 12 oz. of Feta cheese that I had cut into cubes.
I then set about making the filling. I started by sautéing 2 medium diced onions in olive oil. (To minimize dish washing later, I used the same vessel in which I cooked the pasta). While the onions cooked for about 5 minutes over medium heat, I diced the reserved flesh from the eggplants (I discarded the really seedy pieces) – in the end it was about 3 cups of diced eggplant flesh.
I added the diced eggplant to the cooked onions and continued to cook the mixture while I cut some Tuscan kale into ribbons. When the onions and eggplant were softened, I added the kale and cooked it long enough for it to wilt. When the veggies were finished, I transferred them to the bowl with the orzo to cool.
Next I turned to the chicken. In the pan I used to cook the veggies to cook the chicken (again, this would save me on dish washing later). I cooked it in 3 separate batches – to avoid boiling the chicken – for about 4 minutes per batch until it was nicely browned and cooked through.
After all the chicken was cooked, into the filling mixture. To finish the filling, I mixed in all but 3 Tbsp. of the dressing.
I spooned the filling into the eggplant “boats” – filling them until they were nicely mounded with filling. Finally, I topped the “boats” with seasoned breadcrumbs and a drizzle of the remaining dressing and baked them in a 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes.
The result? Mmm mmm mmm!
I hope you use this recipe and enjoy the delicious results. I recommend making extra and sharing it with friends or family. As a matter of fact, the timer is just going off and as soon as I slide the eggplant out of the oven I’m headed to our friends’ house to drop some off.
Sharing the fruits of your labor – whether they’re veggies from your garden or a meal from your kitchen (or really, the result of any of your talents) – gives your friends one more reason to think of you and smile!!!
Greek-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant
Keywords: entree chicken eggplant lemon feta cheese
To Prepare Eggplant Boats
- 6 medium eggplant
- 1/3 cup Gazebo Room Greek Dressing
To Make Vinaigrette
- 3 lemons, zest and juice (about 1/2 cup juice)
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
To Make Filling
- 3/4 lb. orzo, cooked according to package instructions
- 3/4 lb. chicken, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes and marinated in 1/4 cup Gazebo Room Greek Dressing
- 12 oz. Feta cheese, cut into 3/4″ cubes
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 3 cups cubed eggplant (reserved when preparing eggplant boats)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 large bunch Tuscan kale, chopped
- 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 3 Tbsp. reserved vinaigrette dressing
To prepare eggplant “boats”
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the stem end off each eggplant.
Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise.
Optional – if you don’t prefer to eat the peel, peel each eggplant half or compromise like Jeff and I do and peel strips off each eggplant half, leaving a little of the skin intact.
Using a paring knife, score a well in each eggplant half.
Using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of the well. (Cut the removed flesh into small cubes and save 3 cups of the cubed eggplant for the filling. I discard any flesh that is really seedy.)
Place the “boats,” well facing up / skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle the “boats” with Gazebo Room Greek Dressing – dividing the 1/3 cup dressing among all the halves.
Roast the “boats” in the preheated 400 degree F oven for approximately 30 minutes (you want them to be tender, but not mushy).
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the vinaigrette
In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the lemon zest and juice, minced garlic, minced thyme, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
While you are vigorously whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon mixture. You want to whisk faster than you pour so that you create a nice emulsion.
Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
To make the filling
Cook the orzo according to the package instructions.
Drain orzo and transfer to a large, heat-proof bowl.
Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the hot orzo and stir to coat.
Set orzo aside to cool.
When orzo is cool, stir in cubed Feta cheese, currants and toasted pine nuts.
Over medium-high heat, sauté onions in Tbsp. olive oil- stirring frequently – until tender but not brown, approximately 5 minutes.
Add remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and cubed eggplant and cook for an additional 5 minutes, lowering heat to medium.
When eggplant is soft, add chopped kale and cook for approximately 3 minutes just to wilt the kale.
Remove the veggies from the pan and allow to cool.
In the same pan, sauté the cubed, marinated chicken – stirring frequently – over medium high heat – working in batches to avoid boiling your chicken rather than searing it – for approximately 4 minutes, until cooked through and nicely brown.
Remove chicken from the pan and allow to cool.
When veggies and chicken have cooled, mix them into the orzo mixture.
Add all but 3 Tbsp. of the remaining vinaigrette and stir well to coat and evenly distribute ingredients.
To Fill, Top & Bake Eggplant
Reduce heat of preheated oven to 350 degrees F.
Fill each eggplant half with filling, mounding the filling over the top edge of the eggplant.
Place eggplant half on a rimmed baking sheet.
Repeat with all halves.
Distribute the seasoned breadcrumbs evenly over all the eggplant halves.
Drizzle the remaining 3 Tbsp. vinaigrette over all the eggplant halves.
Bake in preheated 350 degree F. oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Filling will be heated through and breadcrumbs should be golden brown.
Serve & enjoy!