EGGPLANT BOATS STUFFED WITH LAMB AND VEGGIES
2, 1-1 ½-pound eggplants
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, chopped (about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups)
1 small fennel bulb, chopped (about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups)
8 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
8-ounces cremini mushrooms, rough chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1, 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons Dish off the Block Ciao Bella Italian Spice Blend
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (plus more for garnish
12-ounce block feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat it with non-stick spray.
Cut the eggplants evenly in half lengthwise. Score the white flesh side with a paring knife, in a crisscross pattern, ¾ of the way through each half, but do not pierce the skin. Place the eggplants, scored-side-up, on the baking sheet and drizzle about ¼ cup of the olive oil over the tops. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the flesh is just tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and set aside to cool.
Heat another 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Cook the leeks and fennel, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook until the mushrooms begin to lose their moisture. Add the red pepper and cook for 2 minutes more.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the scored flesh out of the center, leaving about ¼” on the skin so they still have some shape and you can stuff them. Place the shells back on the baking sheet and season the insides with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper.
Chop the scooped flesh into 1” pieces and add it to the skillet with all of the veggies and cook until all of the eggplant is very tender. Season this mixture with 1 teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the black pepper. Place the veggie mixture in a large bowl and bring it to room temperature.
When the veggies are room temperature, add the tomatoes, eggs, breadcrumbs, cumin, Italian seasoning, mint, and remaining teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Stir to combine. Add the ground lamb to the bowl and massage everything together with your hands until well incorporated. Add 8 ounces of the feta cheese (do not crumble into very small pieces so you can still see them and get pops of the salty cheese after it bakes). Fold the cheese into the mixture, but do not over mix.
Divide the mixture into 4 parts and place it in the eggplant shells, molding it into a loaf-like shape. There will be a good amount of filling in each shell. Leave some room between each of the stuffed shells so they can brown evenly all over.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining 4 ounces of crumbled feta cheese. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the feta is lightly browned and the temperature in the center of each boat is approximately 150-155 degrees.
Remove and garnish with chopped mint or parsley.