This recipe is inspired by a dish at Apaggio, a family owned restaurant on the Greek isle of Mykonos in Ornos Bay. I loved it so much that I decided when I got home I would re-create my own version.
Many steps are involved in making this twice baked eggplant. It is a slow to cook masterpiece. The eggplant and the tomato stuffing are first prepared separately, then combined and baked again. This is a labor intensive process but the results are worth the effort since it’s rare to find a recipe so hearty AND full of flavor that’s totally healthy.
I usually start cooking the tomato stuffing first since it has a total cook time of 2 hours 30 minutes. The recipe as measured here makes four large portions. A friend used this very recipe and simply cut it in half as she felt her eggplant were quite small, and hers turned out delicious too.
MAKING THE EGGPLANT
Olive oil (2/3 cup)
Garlic cloves (4-5)
Lemon (1 fresh)
Aleppo Crushed Chili Flakes – Williams Sonoma
Take two large eggplants and use a produce wash to get them free of dirt, dry well. Then cut the ends off and cut in half length-wise. Put the two halves face down on a dish with 1/3 cup olive oil. Leave it on the plate in the olive oil with the open face down until the olive oil soaks in. Repeat this step with the second eggplant.
Clean and squeeze at least 5 garlic cloves through a garlic press, in essence creating your own garlic paste. Spread the garlic across the tops of the eggplant generously, and squeeze with fresh lemon juice. Now use the dried seasonings and sprinkle a little oregano, thyme and crushed chili over the top. For this recipe I like to use Crushed Aleppo Chili Flakes by Williams Sonoma because it has spicy and sweetness to it.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour 40 minutes. Then remove the eggplant from the oven and let it sit covered until it cools, then carefully remove the foil cover. The eggplant will be soft and tender.
Stir up each individual eggplant with a butter knife and a fork so that the garlic spread seasoned top is now mixed well within. Leave the skin to the eggplant in tact. It will function much like the skin on a twice baked potato- holding it together like everything nestled perfectly in a little boat. Sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper.
MAKING THE TOMATO STUFFING:
Tomato Stuffing Ingredients:
Roma Vine Tomatoes (2 pounds – with the natural juices)
White Onion (2)
Olive Oil (1/3 cup)
Fresh Garlic (4 cloves chopped)
Oregano (dried, 3 tbsp)
Start by using a produce wash for your onions and tomatoes. Clean and cut the onion in half, slice thin. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces, making sure you retain the natural tomato juice. Place the chopped tomatoes and onions into a large deep sauce pan. Add in the fresh chopped garlic, dried oregano, and the olive oil. Give it a stir. Place the lid slightly askew then turn on the heat to low. Let cook for 1 hour then proceed to uncover and cook on low for an additional 1hour and 30 minutes on low heat. Make sure to stir occasionally along the way. Once it is done cooking let it sit and cool.
Three times now the particular tomatoes I used happened to be very juicy so I had plenty of liquid naturally for the tomatoes and onions to cook in.
One time I made this recipe and I added almost an entire cup of water while the tomatoes were cooking to prevent burning and maintain the right consistency. My point? Keep an eye on it. If it looks dry or it is in danger of burning stir in 1/4 cup of water at a time. However, the key to this step is making sure to add the natural juice from the fresh tomatoes in while they cook with the onions. It usually does the trick.
TWICE BAKED – COMBINING THE TWO
Stuffing The Eggplant:
Take the tomato and onion mixture and use it to stuff and top off the eggplant. If the tomatoes are very juicy then use a slotted spoon (that’s just a fancy way of saying the spoon that has holes in it) so that the excess liquid will drain off before you place it atop the eggplant.
Bake the Spicy Tomato Stuffed Eggplant at 350 degrees for 45 minutes more. Now it is done! Please note that if you end up heating up and baking an additional time or two, or three, that this only makes the dish taste even better.
Remember to toss fresh chunks of feta on top before serving.
This recipe is vegetarian, gluten free, and easily vegan (just leave out the feta cheese).