This healthy baked eggplant recipe, with a wonderfully spiced meat sauce, will make anyone fall in love with this healthy veggie.
It took me a long (!) time to appreciate eggplant dishes, and I'm probably not alone in that. It doesn't tend to rank high on most kids' "favorite veggies" lists. As a kid, my parents and I occasionally dined at a Greek restaurant in Vancouver and I remember my mum ordering moussaka each time, encouraging me to taste the beautifully layered dish. The meat layer stole my heart, but the eggplant earned only tentative nibbles.
Fast forward many years. My appreciation for eggplant had grown and was sealed with a gold stamp when I first made my Grilled Zucchini & Eggplant Parmesan, which is one of my meatless meal staples. And then along came this gorgeous Baked Eggplant with Meat Sauce, which has given me another reason to fall in love with this vegetable all over again.
Last year, I shared my friend, Liz's (of The Lemon Bowl) recipe for Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta & Bean Soup) from the first in her Ultimate Sunday Dinner ecookbook series. With this 4-book series (Italian, Mexican, Jewish and Syrian), Liz captures the recipes of her family and her husband’s family, and those of her photographer's, Raul's.
You can buy all four in a bundle for only $12.99 or the newest cookbook Food From Our Ancestors: The Ultimate Syrian Sunday Dinner for only $3.99. Either way, that's a smokin' deal for amazing, authentic recipes. The newest book features recipes such as Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Tabbouleh Salad and Aunt Vieve's Hummus with Pine Nuts (I'm guessing Aunt Vieve was a hit at every party with this hummus!).
Healthy Baked Eggplant Recipe:
While the baked eggplant rounds provide the perfect base for this hearty dish, it's the meat sauce that will steal your heart. The addition of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice is common to Syrian cuisine, and those spices are the magic formula for the earthy and complex flavors of this meat sauce. I actually fell so hard for this sauce that I ditched my usual marinara and replaced it with this one when I made spaghetti last week.
The recipe calls for either ground lamb or ground sirloin, and I've made it both ways. They both work well, but my family is partial to the rich flavor of lamb.
Serve this with a side of the Syrian Salad from Liz's ecookbook for a well-rounded, delicious meal.
Baked Eggplant with Meat Sauce
- 2 medium eggplants sliced into 2-inch rounds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon ghee clarified butter
- 1 pound ground lamb or sirloin
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 large onion diced
- ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 32 ounces crushed tomatoes
- plain yogurt minced parsley & extra pine nuts, for serving
- Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Lay the eggplant rounds in a single layer on the prepared pan and, using a pastry brush, brush both sides evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then broil eggplant 5 minutes per side, until browned. Place broiled eggplant in the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish.
- Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
- Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 6-7 minutes; set aside.
- While pine nuts are toasting, melt clarified butter in a deep pan heated over medium-high heat.
- Brown meat in the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.
- Add onions to the pan and continue cooking for additional 5-7 minutes until onions are translucent.
- Add chicken broth and deglaze the pan using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up brown bits.
- Pour in crushed tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, then remove from heat.
- Carefully pour the meat mixture over the eggplant rounds and bake for 45 minutes.
- Serve with plain yogurt, fresh parsley and extra pine nuts.
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