Ah, September. For most of the country, this means the beginning of fall. But in my little North Hollywood bungalow it means a miniature heat wave, with temperatures creeping past 100 degrees outside. While the warmth has been less than pleasant for myself, Jeremy, and the cat (no central AC = no sleep & tufts of fur everywhere) it’s created the ideal growing climate for the eggplants I have nestled in my backyard, and I’ve now found myself with more eggplants than I know what to do with. So, I decided to use what I had and stuffed my eggplants with more eggplants. And also some quinoa, herbs, and spices. To really make turning on the oven to roast the dish worth it, I made a roasted garlic raita to serve along side the piping hot eggplants. It’s the perfect cool and creamy compliment to the warm, spiced vegetables. If you’re unfamiliar with raita, it’s an Indian spread that’s made from yogurt and traditionally incorporates herbs, spices, and fruits or vegetables. It offers a wonderful complement to roasted meats and vegetables when served on the side for spooning over your toasty plate.
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
First, prep the eggplants. Cut them in half lengthwise and use a strong spoon to scoop out the soft flesh, leaving about 1/2 inch of flesh around the skin. Chop up the flesh that you removed, discarding any parts that are mostly seeds. Set aside.
Now, prepare the quinoa. In a medium-sized pot, bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil with the quinoa. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook according to the time on the quinoa package, or until the little threads of the quinoa have started to separate from the kernel and they’re soft when tasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until slightly transparent. Add the chopped eggplant, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and all the dried herbs and spices (not the fresh mint). Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
While the mixture is simmering, you can start prepping the roasted garlic. Cut the top 1/4 off the head of garlic and place it in the center of a roughly 8-inch square of tin foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the top of the garlic and then wrap up the tin foil around it so it’s in a nice little sealed up tin foil bushel. Set aside.
Once the 10 minutes of simmering have passed, stir in the fresh mint and the quinoa and remove from heat. Place the eggplant halves on a large casserole pan, hollow side facing up. Fill the eggplants with the quinoa mixture and scoop any remaining mixture into the casserole pan around the eggplant halves. Pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of water into the casserole pan. Place the pan in the oven, and place the tin foil-wrapped garlic head in the oven next to the casserole pan. Allow them both to cook for 45 -55 minutes, or until the top of the quinoa stuffing is slightly golden and lightly crisp to the touch.
While they’re baking, you can start preparing the raita. Mix together the remaining olive oil, yogurt, cayenne pepper, onion, salt, and pepper until blended. Cover and refrigerate.
Once the roasted eggplants and garlic are done cooking, remove each of them from the oven and allow the garlic to cool until safe to touch. Squeeze the garlic head’s contents out into the raita and stir to incorporate. Top with the fresh mint and serve immediately alongside the stuffed eggplants.