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Why did I grow eggplant in my garden? I don’t even like it. Other than walnuts, which I’m actually allergic to, and okra, which as a Californian I’m genetically unable to comprehend, it’s the only food I will pick around if served to me. Yet I grew it. I put it in the ground, I fed it and watered it and now it is giving me fruit, just like what would happen in any normal gardener/vegetable relationship. So why did I do this to myself? The only thing I can think of is that somewhere deep in my subconscious I have come to believe that eating eggplant is a sign of maturity, and that since I now have my own house and my own big garden, it’s time to step up. Grown-ups eat eggplant, Sara!

Okay so now what? I’ve got them, I’m damn sure not going to let them go to waste. So here’s what I came up with, and it actually turned out to be delicious:

When You Don’t Like Eggplant Moussaka

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks (the shape depends on the type of eggplant you’re using – mine are little finger eggplants, so I cut them up into coins)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey, beef, or lamb (I went with turkey)
  • 1/2 cup diced peppers (I used hot peppers from my garden – but use whatever peppers you’re comfortable with)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste (I didn’t really use the whole thing here, about 3/4 of it)
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • Olive oil, generously, as needed

In an oven-safe saute pan, saute the eggplant in olive oil until brown and remove from the pan. Add more olive oil and saute the garlic and onion and oregano until the onion is translucent. Add the ground meat and the remaining spices and cook it through. Then mix in the diced peppers and the eggplant. Add the tomato sauce, paste, wine, and honey and stir thoroughly until it’s completely mixed together. Mix in the raisins and simmer everything together on low heat for about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed, then top it with the crumbled feta and put under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown the cheese.  This is in lieu of the traditional bechamel sauce that goes on top, and I think it’s not only way easier, it’s also a lot tastier.

(Variations: Since I used ultra lean turkey, I added a pat of butter to the mix to give it some richness, but I think if you use beef or lamb that would not be necessary. I garnished mine with a few pine nuts because I love pine nuts. You can also use zucchini – another gardener’s quandary – in this recipe, but watch out because it is much more easily overcooked than eggplant)

(Disclaimer: All of my measurements are approximations, and can be adjusted to meet your own preference. The goal is a slightly sweet but very savory dish with the consistency of a very thick chili)

Serve with couscous or crusty bread and some red wine and voila! Instant grown-up!

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