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Stuffed Eggplant

This week's recipe is one that I have been thinking about for a while. It brings together so many different products from the store, it is hearty and it is full of flavour.

The original calls for squash, but I may have cooked my fill of squash for the time being, so I substituted it for eggplant, a perennial favourite of mine. The original recipe also calls for twine to tie it up, but I didn't have any and so I wrapped it in tinfoil. Next time, I'd tie it up. The original also called for cooked brown rice, but I opted for the more elegant wild and brown rice mix. Alongside the lentils, it gives this dish a nice crunch. As always, you can substitute your favourite nuts, although pistachios and almonds worked very well.

2 large eggplants
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/4 cups of water
4 tbsp vegetable soup base
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 oz. white button mushrooms, finely chopped
1/3 cup French green lentils
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups cooked rice - I used our wild and brown mix
1 cup roughly chopped spinach
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pistachios and slices almonds)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F .
2. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and score them. Salt each piece generously and allow to sit for 15 minutes, then dry up any moisture with a towel.
3. Baste the eggplant with 2 tbsp of olive oil and bake on a baking tray for 30 minutes or until the center can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.
4. Boil the water and stir in the vegetable soup base. Set aside.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the garlic, onion and mushroom until tender, approximately 4 minutes. Add the lentils, cranberries, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, and prepared soup base. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes with the lid off, or until the liquid is absorbed. Turn the stove off and stir in the rice. Then stir in the spinach, nuts, salt and pepper.
6. Scoop the eggplant flesh out, leaving a 1/2 inch thick wall. Stir all the eggplant flesh into the stuffing mix.
7. Pile the stuffing onto one half of the eggplant, overfilling it so it mounds up. Place the other half the eggplant on top- the stuffing should fill the lid. Tie the two halves together by trussing with kitchen string every 1 1/4 inches to hold the squash in a nice shape.
8. Bake for 40 minutes until the filling is hot in the middle.
9. Remove the squash from the oven and rest for 10 minutes.
10. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch thick slices and serve.


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