Some vegetables are just made for stuffing: split a pepper down the middle and, pronto, you have two perfect, ready to be filled, "cups". Artichokes, zucchini, onions and even squash work great in this "stuff it" game. And clearly aubergines. If you happen to read this pages every now and then you might have noticed I'm quite fond of this berry (yep that's what it is, from a botanical perspective) and I've posted a few recipes before (one here, another one, a third here and a last one). Stuffed aubergines are quite common around the Mediterranean basin and, as far as I know, in that part of Asia between the Mediterranean sea and India too. So there's plenty of ideas and every now and then I try a new recipe. I'm never disappointed, all these different dishes taste great. But sometimes, when I feel like having a simpler version of stuffed aubergine I go back to my recipe for melanzane a scarpone, literarily shoe-like aubergines, or Neapolitan style stuffed aubergines.
Melanzane a scarpone is an incredibly simple version of stuffed aubergines: the aubergine flesh, cut out to turn the aubergine into a container, is re-used as a stuffing. A perfect example of economic cooking. It always surprises me how, even with such a simple recipe as this, you end up with so many modifications: I have at least four different recipes for this, and that's not counting the ones I collected in my memory watching Neapolitan friends cook. Inevitably I came up with my own recipe too. All recipes have one thing in common: to turn the aubergines into a "shoe", they're first cut along the length in two halves and the flesh scooped out, possibly in one piece. Most recipe call for long aubergines, but I prefer the rounder ones. You can get way more stuffing into them and, well , I really like stuffing. The aubergine flesh is usually diced and fried. I find that in this case that makes the dish too oily so I use a different method. I put the diced aubergine in a plastic bag, pour some EVO oil inside (about 2 Tbsp per aubergine, 3 if they're really big), puff the bag up by blowing into it, seal it and shake it till all the aubergine pieces are coated with oil. I then sautee the pieces in a non-stick pan. You could brush the pieces one by one with a pastry brush but do you know how long that takes? I tried: it takes way longer than I am ready to sopend on an aubergine. Once done the aubergine flesh is mixed with capers, anchovies, olives, some tomatoes and sometimes bread crumbs. You could even turn this into a vegan dish if you leave out the anchovies. To finish, the aubergines shells are filled with the stuffing and baked for about 30 minutes. They're nice warm but even better if they can cool a bit off. That way the flavours have a bit extra time to blend and the aubergine flavour gets enhanced by the accompanying ingredients.
Melanzane a scarpone
Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as side or appetiser
2 large firm round Aubergines
10 black olives, seeded and quartered
2 Tbsp salted capers, rinsed several times with warm water
4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
2-3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
basil, if you feel like it
2 Tbsp stale (2-3 days) bread crumb, cut into small cubes
salt and olive oil
Pre-heat your oven at 170C (340F). If the bread is still a bit soft put it, in one layer, on a baking sheet in the warming-up oven, to dry out. Check and turn from time to time till dry on the outside. The bread shouldn't colour so it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. Cut the aubergines in two halves along their length and remove the flesh leaving about 1 cm attached to the skin. Dice the flesh and coat with olive oil as described above. Sautee in a non-stick pan till the aubergine dices start to turn brown on the surface. Set aside to cool a bit. Meanwhile brush the aubergine shells very lightly with olive oil and place into the oven (which should have reached the proper temperature by now) for about 10 minutes, you're not baking them through only giving them some extra cooking time to prevent them from being still slightly raw at the end. While the shells bake, mix the diced aubergine flesh with olives, capers, anchovies, tomato and eventual basil. Season with salt. Once the shells are done take them out of the oven, mix the bred into the stuffing and spoon into the shells. Place in the oven again and bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.