I had this during one of my visits to Israel. My partner's mom, who is an incredible cook made this for us, knowing how much I love eggplant dishes. In her version the eggplant sandwiches were dipped in a batter and fried. In my quest to make everything healthier, I created my version where I first brown the eggplant slices in the oven, than add the meat filling (i use lamb, but beef or even turkey will do just fine) and braise it in a rich sauce made of red bell pepper, tomatoes and onion. This seems complicated to make, but it is actually quite simple and quick if you follow the right order, and the result is simply amazing.
The first step is preparing the eggplant. Once its in the oven, put together the sauce, and when that's going, you will take out the eggplant from the oven, and prepare the meat filling.
To toast the pine nuts, place them in a oven proof pan and toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes. They burn quickly, so watch out!
1 large eggplant, sliced into quarter inch slices
Nonstick cooking spray
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tomatos, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, sliced, seeds removed
1 can tomato paste (6oz)
1 cup water
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 lbs ground lamb or beef
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp baharat
3 tbs pine nuts, toasted
Start with preparing the eggplant. Heat oven to 400F.
1. Slice the eggplant into quarter inch rounds and arrange on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Spray the eggplant on both sides, sprinkle salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until slightly browned, about 7 minutes on each side.
2. In a wide pot with a lid, sauté the onion in 1tbs of olive oil, over medium heat for about a minute, and add the diced red pepper and garlic. Stir for another minute and add the jalapeno and tomato paste and mix until well combined.
3. Add the diced tomatoes, oregano, salt, sugar and pepper and continue to stir.
4. Add the liquid and gently stir until well combined. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to let simmer for about 15 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, check on the eggplant. It should be about ready to remove from the oven and cool down. Now, prepare the meat:
1. In a food processor place the onion, 1/2 jalapeno, garlic and cilantro and process for about 20 seconds. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and continue to pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
2. Place the ground meat in a bowl and combine with the onion-cilantro mix.
3. Add the paprika, baharat a pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper and toasted pine nuts. Use your hands to mix until it's all combined, but not overworked.
Before we assemble the eggplant, check on the sauce, taste for flavors and give it a stir.
1. Once the eggplant has cooled down, spoon the meat filling onto one slice of eggplant (make sure to keep another slice as a top) and use your hands to mold the meat into a hamburger-like shape. It should be at least half an inch wide.
2. Once all of the eggplant slices are ready, place the second slice on top to create a sandwich, and gently pat them down with your hands.
3. Arrange the stuffed eggplant in the sauce, and gently shake the pot to allow the sauce to coat the eggplant. Cover the pot and reduce the heat.
4. Let simmer on low heat for 25 minutes. Remove the lid, and with a turning spoon and a spoon, carefully flip the eggplant, using the second spoon to keep the top in place. Cover the pot and continue to cook another 20 minutes.