SAUSAGE-STUFFED EGGPLANT (ITALIAN)
Created a new "Italian" dish tonight, continuing to play the changes on the twin themes of fresh garden produce and eggplant dishes we've been discussing here, and with the specific agenda of coming up with an "earthy" summer entree to go with a South African Pinot Noir.
Be patient, this one's much easier to make than it is to describe: Less than an hour, start to finish, for dinner in a dish:
Strip the skin from two fat, fresh mild Italian sausage links, break up the sausage, and brown it well in a sautee pan; when it's well browned, drain all fat and reserve the sausage.
Meanwhile, split one large eggplant and scoop out as much of the "meat" as possible, leaving a thin shell. Set the shells aside, and chop the eggplant coarsely. No need to dice it fine or worry about consistent shapes.
Toss about two tablespoons (more if you love 'em as much as I do) of pine nuts into a small skillet and toast them over low heat until they turn mahogany and smell great.
Pour just enough olive oil into a big sautee pan to coat the bottom and place over low heat. Stir in one fat garlic clove, minced very fine, and heat until it's golden and aromatic. Then sautee about 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I like to use a mix of green, yellow and red to spruce up the color, but whatever) and 1/2 cup chopped onion. When the onion turns translucent, add the chopped eggplant and continue sauteeing until the eggplant softens and starts to wilt. Then stir in the cooked sausage, salt and pepper to taste, and cook, uncovered, over low heat, for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water to keep it from sticking, only if necessary.
While you're doing that, put the two eggplant skins in a 350F oven (we used the toaster oven) and let them start to cook up and crisp a little. When the eggplant mix is pretty much cooked, but not overcooked, stir in the pine nuts, and then mound the resulting mixture into the eggplant shells. Put a little water in the bottom of the pan, and place them back in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the filling is steaming hot and the shells are cooked.
While the stuffed eggplants are baking, make a quick "salsa cruda." Chop one large, juicy fresh tomato into medium-size dice. Stir in one sliced scallion and about 1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil leaves.
When the eggplants are hot and starting to get crusty on top, serve 'em up; pour a stripe of cold salsa cruda down the middle of each eggplant, and surround 'em on the plate with the rest.
As I said, it looks complicated. But it's not. It takes almost longer to explain than it does to cook. I started this procedure at 6:10, and we sat down to eat at 7.
And with the Pinot it went great.