Sunday, 8 November 2015

Just a Little Egg-Citement

Riso Pilaf al Forno con Piccole Melanzane
Baked Pilau Rice with Baby Eggplants

Although they were nothing special, to be honest, the lovely little, violet-colored eggplants were just too beautiful for me to resist yesterday. And I decided I needed to do something a little different and a little special with them...

But that of course did not mean doing anything too complicated or time-consuming! It simply meant having a touch of inspiration, a couple of very basic other ingredients and around 40 minutes time in all to prepare them.

They may have lost their color, but they have become something quite different and equally lovely- wouldn't you agree?

I originally considered stuffing them with rice, but they were just that little bit too small, being no larger than a regular tomato in size. So, I just left the rice on the outside and re-thought my tactics- and came up with this neat idea, right here.

So, here they are, my little beauties- 4 small, Sicilian eggplants- although you could make this with any eggplant actually, if you cut it the same way. And apart from the eggplants, all I needed was a couple of handfuls of rice, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, 1 spring onion, a little fresh parsley, salt, pepper, dried oregano, olive oil and a little vegetable broth.

I wanted to avoid frying, wanted to avoid getting a number of pots and pans out and wanted to make something that would balance the slight bitterness that these smaller eggplants tend to have. 

So rather than overpowering the bitterness with spice, I kept the flavors light and neutral, with a touch of sweetness and fruitiness from the tomatoes, a little oregano to combine them nicely with the eggplant and give it a "mediterranean" touch. And of course- the crispy top layer of rice made for a little extra treat too!

I began by cutting off the tops of the eggplants and scoring them, using a small, sharp knife, about 1" deep as you can see here. I then squeezed them a little so they would open up and sprinkled them with salt.

And then, for good measure- and also to help let them cook more quickly, I prodded them with a fork from the outside in order to pierce the skin, which is a little tougher with the smaller eggplants.

Whilst I chopped my spring onion and halved the tomatoes, I brought a little, light vegetable stock to the boil and turned on the oven to get it nice and hot.

I then gave the eggplants a little squeeze and a rinse to get rid of some bitterness and put all of my ingredients into my little saucepan. I simply used this because it happened to be the right size and I like the way it looks, but any baking dish will be fine.

Put in the rice, onion and tomatoes first, then the eggplants and season well with plenty of pepper, a little salt and a good sprinkle of oregano.

Use 2 cups of stock for each cup of rice and feel free to use chicken or beef broth if you prefer- both would be great in this... it's all up to you!

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 180°C, then remove the foil, drizzle with olive oil and pop back into the oven for 10 minutes more to let the eggplant, tomatoes and rice become lightly golden brown.

It's simple, healthy, light and convenient. All things that I like and that I hope I inspire you to like too. A last sprinkle of parsley livens up the color somewhat and adds that little hint of freshness... and dinner can be served and enjoyed with no further ado!

The eggplant is nice and juicy inside- but don't worry- it is not boiled and mushy- the skin is tough enough to prevent that from happening and the olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper that seep in and flavor it do a great job at making the most of it's own taste... and it's a fun and different way to serve it anyhow!

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