23 October 2010

23 October - Saint John of Capistrano; Stuffed Eggplant

"When the swallows come back to Capistrano...."

In the General Calendar, today is the memorial of the Franciscan reformer Saint John of Capistrano (March 28 in the Traditional Calendar).  Prof. Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira calls him one of the saints "who were the defensive walls of the House of God."  And he did indeed defend, whether with words or in the midst of battle.

As Saint John is the patron of military chaplains, I suppose eating MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) would be appropriate; still, he came from southern Italy, which should have some bearing on tonight's dinner, so use the MREs as a centerpiece and choose something flavorful from Capistrano.

Capistrano is in the Calabrian region of Italy, at the toe of the Italian boot.  Surrounded by the sea, seafood and shellfish vie with the meats of the interior: pork and beef.  There are innumerable pasta dishes (including one with anchovies that I must try!), and vegetables, most especially eggplant.  So for Saint John's day, let us have STUFFED EGGPLANT:

Start with eggplants about 5 - 7 inches long, and plan on one or two halves per person.

There are any number of ways to prepare the eggplant - drizzle the halves with olive oil and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes; set them in a covered pan with a half inch of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes; or parboil a whole eggplant for about 20 minutes then slice in half.  In all cases, cook until flesh inside is tender.

While your eggplant halves are cooling, mince 1 onion and 1/2 of a clove of garlic (the whole clove if you like garlic) and set aside.  Mince 8 - 10 black olives and set them aside.  If using fresh herbs, mince enough marjoram to equal 1 teaspoon; enough thyme to equal 1/2 teaspoon; and parsley to equal one tablespoon - if using dried, then halve the above amounts.  Set aside.

When your eggplant halves are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch of flesh lining the skins.  Be careful not to break through.  Yes, this is just like making stuffed baked potatoes.  Chop up the eggplant flesh and set aside.

Saute 1/2 pound of ground pork or ground beef in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until no longer pink, then add onion and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs; cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  In a bowl, mix together 1 beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of grated Italian cheese, the olives, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste; add to cooled meat mixture and mix well.

Stuff the eggplant halves with mixture, place them in a baking dish, and bake uncovered in a 325 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Rosetta at Calabria from Scratch has another good Stuffed Eggplant recipe, with pictures of each step.