Baby Eggplant Stuffed With Lamb, Fruit & Montasio Cheese
This past September, I was contacted by a lovely lady named Jill who invited me to enter the “Legends From Europe Market Basket Recipe Contest For Bloggers”. Knowing that I need to work on my confidence in recipe development, I gave a resounding but shaky yes. In this contest, the bloggers get assigned a specific product, either a variety of Prosciutto or a specific cheese. The assignments are random and I got Montasio cheese. This wasn’t a cheese I was familiar with and I worried about finding it in my rural area. Luckily, a bulk liquor store with a great gourmet department had quite a bit of it. Whew! So it was on to the taste testing. Let me just say, this cheese is actually quite delicious. There are different types of Montasio and they vary some by flavor as well as firmness. The one I got is akin to a good Parmigiano in texture; firm, easy to grate and with a nice bite to it. The flavor is reminiscent of Swiss cheese but rather as if Swiss and Parmigiano had a love child. 😛 It’s lucky I bought a lot, because we absolutely love it.
I obsessed for the better part of a month over what to make but what finally decided me was when I saw some baby eggplant at the store. The cute factor won out lol. What’s weird is how I cook when I’m developing. There is little to no research, and I fly by the seat of my pants. I’m one of those people who does far better if I don’t plan things, just get in there and do it. That way of cooking worked well here. These stuffed eggplants are amazingly good. You have the meatiness of the lamb combined with the sweetness of the fruit, the sharpness and creaminess of the cheese, then the herbs and spinach joining with a slight bite from the curry and the red pepper flakes. Give this a try; I think you’ll be pleased.Â And if you find a good source of the Montasio cheese? Stock up. This cheese is wonderful!
Baby Eggplants Stuffed With Lamb, Fruit & Montasio Cheese
5 baby eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb ground lamb
3 minced shallots (about 3.5 tablespoons)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed as dry as possible
3 cups grated Montasio cheese, divided (use the large hole on a box grater)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. Slice each eggplant in half and lay cut side up in the baking pan. Brush them with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. When done, set aside to cool.
While the eggplant cooks, pour the remaining 1 tablespoon olive into a large saucepan. Over medium heat, saute the lamb, shallots, onions and garlic in the olive oil until the meat is browned and the aromatics are limp and translucent. Drain well, then place back in the pan.Â Return heat to medium.
To the lamb, add the apricots, figs, almonds and cranberries. Stir to combine then add the next 7 ingredients (through the black pepper). Stir and let cook for five minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When done, add in the spinach and stir well. Remove from heat and set aside.
Use a sharp knife to cut along the inside edges of each eggplant half, making sure not to cut through the skin and leaving about a quarter inch thick shell.
Scoop out the insides of the eggplants and either discard the pulp or use for another purpose. Lay each eggplant back on the baking dish, cut side up. Lay them close to each other for support.. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Montasio over the insides of the eggplants.
Add 2 cups of the remaining Montasio to the stuffing mixture in the pan. Stir well to combine.
Stuff each eggplant half with about one third to one half a cup of the stuffing mixture (a slightly larger eggplant half can hold a touch more, smaller ones a bit less), pressing down lightly and mounding it up. The stuffing mix is fairly dense so it’s easy to compact and mound. You may end up with a few spoonfuls of the stuffing mixture left over. It’s wonderful fresh from the pan too, so eat up!
Return to the 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is easily pierced with a fork through the side. Ten minutes into cooking, remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Montasio cheese over the eggplant halves and return to the oven for the last ten or so minutes of cooking time.
Use a large spatula to carefully remove the eggplants from the pan and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish as desired and serve one half as an appetizer serving or two as an entree.
Mediterranean Lamb Burgers With Balsamic Caramelized Onions, Feta
Looks like a pretty plain burger, ehh? Well, don’t be deceived! That plain look isn’t the fault of the burger, just me as the one who photographed it hehe. Over a week ago, I made these for the first time. We absolutely loved the burger, but I absolutely hated the photos I took of it. So I asked on my Facebook page if the wonderful people who have my page liked trusted me enough to have me post the recipe even though the photos stunk. The answer was an overwhelming yes, that they trusted me enough even if the photos were bad. I was actually kind of touched to be honest.. But…. I just couldn’t do it. I mean, the photos really really stunk. So, I made the burgers again. Nobody minded hehe. They are truly yummy. And I tried the pictures again. Guess what? They sucked too. I am not capable of taking a good burger photo, it seems. I’m posting it anyway because these burgers deserve to be seen… to be eaten… quite possibly to be revered and worshiped on the alter of burgerness. Or something. Sorry. I had a moment there.
Seriously though, these are really really good. Add a few more reallys in there for good measure. Then git to cookin’. You want these. You really do. Don’t let the photo fool you. These are meaty, flavorful, tangy from the onions, a bit of a salty kick from the feta and creaminess from the cheese on top. You could dress these with tomatoes, ketchup, etc etc but they really don’t need anything. The meat is flavorful enough on its own and the onions just put it over the top.
Also, I did these in a grill pan indoors but feel free to grill them on the bbq.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mediterranean Lamb Burgers With Balsamic Caramelized Onions & Feta Cheese
2 lbs ground lamb
1 egg yolk
6 to 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons Wish Bone brand Mediterranean Italian Dressing
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
choice of cheese for topping burger (I used Havarti)
Sriracha if desired for some heat (that’s what you see running off of mine there 😀 )
6 burger buns
Balsamic Caramelized Onions-
4 medium onions, sliced thinly into half moons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt, to taste
Get your burgers put together first because they will need to chill- In a large bowl, combine all the burger ingredients except the lamb and feta. Mix well. Put the lamb and feta on top and using your hands, lightly mix everything together. Don’t overwork the meat or you’ll have tough burgers in the end (and smushed cheese).
Shape the meat into 6 patties. Again, don’t overwork it but make sure they are firmly together. Put on a plate, cover and chill while you make the onions. These are fairly soft burgers due to the dressing in them so they need to chill some to firm up. Do NOT skip that or you’ll end up with a crumbled mess when you try to cook them.
While the burgers chill, make your onions- in a large pan, heat your oil and butter. Add in the thinly sliced onions and turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Let the onions cook over low heat until they are totally soft and transparent.
Turn the heat up to barely medium and uncover the pan. Stirring frequently, cook the onions until they are a deep golden brown. Don’t rush this by turning up the heat. The process will take at least 25 minutes or so, probably longer.
When they are nicely browned, pour in the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar. Stir well to combine. Turn the heat back down to low and cook the onion mix, stirring frequently, until about 3/4’s of the vinegar is evaporated.
For the burgers- Heat a good frying pan, preferably a cast iron grill pan, over medium high heat until it is almost smoking hot. Do NOT attempt this if all you have is a non stick pan. They can release toxic fumes if heated too high. If that’s all you have, just heat the pan for a minute over medium heat.
Carefully lay your burgers in the pan (only three at a time for an average sized pan). They will spit and sputter all over so be careful not to burn yourself. Cook over medium high heat to desired doneness, about 130 degrees internal temp for medium rare, 145 for medium. I absolutely refuse to put a temp for medium well or well done. Just eat a shoe :-p
To serve, simply put a burger on a bun, top with a scoop of the onions and some cheese. Eat. Love me forever. Set up a burger alter. Cry because I am incapable of taking burger photos that do this justice.
Lamb Chili. It's not baaaaaaddddd (hehe. I slay me)
C’mon, you know that old joke. You MUST know that old joke. You’re five years old (well, not now but think back that far which for some of you wasn’t long ago and for others (like me) was so far back that you recall riding on the backs of dinosaurs) and you go up to someone and ask them what the weather is like. They say “I don’t know; what’s the weather like?” You then reply, with all the wit your five year old sense of humor can muster, “It’s chili today and hot tamale!!!”. You then proceed to roll on the floor laughing so hard that you wet yourself and get put in the corner for an hour. Ok, so maybe that last part was just me. But it was funny darn it!!! Funny I say!!! Totally pee worthy.
Moving on 😛 I know some of you (though very few at this point) are still enjoying cool, if not actually cold, weather. And even if you’re not, if you’re anything like me, you agree with the idea that you do NOT have to save chili for Fall and Winter. I said that same thing when I put together This Chili Recipe Here which is actually my all time favorite non beef chili. Go ahead; check it out. I’ll be here when you get back.
You back now? Didn’t that one look yummy?! It is; trust me. But the one I’m posting now could easily vie with it for first place on favorite non beef chili. This uses lamb, which I love enough that when I saw this recipe online (for the life of me, I’m not sure where I found it and the paper I have it on doesn’t have a web site listed and there are 9 gazillion variations of this so I’m not sure which I changed used.) I knew I had to try it. I’m one of those people that when I am eating a specific meat (or sweet for that matter) THAT’S my favorite. Roast chicken? Favorite. Replace it with roast duck? Favorite. Put a steak in front of me? Favorite. Lamb? Yep… favorite. You get my point. This chili is now my favorite! 😛 Continue reading →
Before I even get to today’s post, I want to say thank you to everybody who commented on yesterdays post or sent me emails. You have no idea how much your support means to me… to US. We still don’t know what will happen but after talking to Jordans therapist yesterday, I am still scared but not AS scared. He was charged with assault when he was 12 in a very similar situation (over reacting school administration in that case) & was eventually found to be incompetent to stand trial and she (his therapist) feels that this one will end the same way. When he gets violent, he is so not aware of his surroundings or his own mind. So all we can do now is wait and see. And pray. I will keep you all updated. Again; thank you so so much. I adore you all!
Moving on…Â When I was a kid, up until I was about 13, I thought meat consisted of hot dogs, my mothers garbage soup (don’t ask… it is something I prefer to forget), chicken and dumplings (that was one she cooked wonderfully!) and hamburgers. Then, a magical day occurred. One weekend, I went to visit my dad as usual. He had lamb chops for dinner and he convinced me to take a bite (not sure what I had been having for dinner). Well, it was love at first bite. My dad spoiled me rotten so even though I can’t remember it as fact, I am willing to bet that he didn’t get anymore of his lamb chops hehe. Medium rare… juicy… seasoned perfectly. My dad wasn’t a major cook but oh man could he do meat right! He is the one who taught me that meat shouldn’t be leather…aka well done.
We don’t have lamb often because it costs more than a mortgage payment but every once in a while, I can find ground lamb in the reduced bin. It’s not very popular in this part of Kentucky I guess (lamb in general isn’t except around the holidays) but the stores keep buying it. That’s fine with me cause then I get it when it’s cheap. 😀
Now we all know my love for curry… and spice…and cheese. Add in my love for lamb and some cranberry sauce (yes, I know that last part sounds weird; just trust me on this one. I promise… delicious!) and I had one fantastic burger for dinner tonight! And it was easy as could be. Mix everything together, toss it on the grill or fry pan (ok, so maybe don’t toss… if you miss, it could be messy. Make that set it gently on the grill 😛 ), cook to medium well (I like my whole lamb, like chops, leg of lamb, etc, medium rare but ground lamb does better if cooked more well done.), shove it into a pita (see instructions for tossing onto the grill 😛 ) garnish and eat. Easy huh? So if you like lamb or have just been wanting to broaden your horizons, give this a try. You’ll love it! The mix of the Greek Seasoning with it’s flavors with the subtle flavor of the curry is interesting.
Curried Lamb, Feta & Parmesan Burger In A Pita
1 pound ground lamb
1/3 cup crumbled feta (I used the garlic and herb kind)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese)
2 teaspoons McCormicks Greek Seasoning
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (will be far too wet to grill if you don’t use this)
3 pita halves
Romaine or butter lettuce (I used red leaf butter lettuce)
half of a medium onion, thinly sliced
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Get your charcoal grill going to medium high heat. If you have a gas grill, you would know better than I what temp to cook burgers at because I’ve never used a gas grill before.
Mix the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Don’t over mix because 1) you’ll have tougher burgers and 2) it breaks up the feta too much & the nice pieces of cheese in this is one of the yummy things about it)
Shape into 3 large patties. Don’t over handle.
Grill over medium hot coals until the meat is medium well;Â 150 – 155 degrees F. When grilling, please please please refrain from flipping burgers every two minutes. You really only want to flip ONCE. Get the first side done and when the meat releases easily, it’s ready to flip. If it sticks, leave it for a few more minutes.
Take some of your lettuce and push it down into the pitas. Add a burger to each pita then add a few slices of onion. Red onion tastes best but I also know that’s subjective. Either way, I had to use yellow because my red one had gone bad. Grrr… grrr I say.
Mix your cranberry sauce with the 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes then spoon about 1/4 cup of it onto each burger. Again; trust me on this. The fruity sauce with the burgers is outstanding. But you could also sub mango chutney if you want.