Baked Eggplant with Quinoa
Although this recipe appears long, it’s simple to assemble, and the final dish is delicious. Quinoa is a slightly nutty, nutritive grain that’s quick to prepare. Wash it thoroughly to remove the bitter saponins before cooking.
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 1/2 pounds eggplant
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)
1 generous cup chopped tomato
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon fresh Italian oregano leaves, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
3 ounces feta, crumbled
1. Rinse and drain the quinoa three times. Boil the water in a nonreactive pan with a tight lid. Add salt and quinoa, stir well, cover, and reduce heat so it cooks at a bare simmer for 15 minutes. When steam stops coming from under the lid, open to see if the liquid has been absorbed. Little spirals should be visible on each grain. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Stir, cover, and let stand.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Halve the eggplant lengthwise. Carefully cut around the eggplant’s perimeter, leaving about a 3/8-inch shell without cutting through the bottom. Remove the inner flesh by scoring it and cutting it into chunks (I use a grapefruit spoon to remove the flesh). Chop the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces.
3. Rub the inside of the eggplant shells with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish and bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. If using smaller eggplants, they may need only 10 or 12 minutes. The eggplant shells should be partially but not completely cooked.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 1 to 2 minutes, add the eggplant, stir, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir again so it doesn’t stick, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir and repeat for 3 more minutes. Add the corn, tomato, garlic, and dried herbs (add fresh herbs later). Stir and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa to the pan along with the fresh herbs if you’re using them, and toss to mix. Add most of the feta, leaving just a little to garnish the top, and toss. Taste for salt and pepper. Fill the shells with the filling–they’ll be heaped full–then mound them nicely and sprinkle with feta.
6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes; smaller eggplants will probably take about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, and serve. This is also good served at room temperature.