There are numerous versions of papoutsakia to be had in Greece including ones stuffed with ground meat and topped with bechamel, others stuffed with ground meat and topped simply with cheese and others still filled simply with tomatoes and onion or really any variety of sauteed vegetables.
Today, I whipped up this Lenten version of papoutsakia in which I filled these tiny, flavorful eggplant halves with plenty of onion, tomatoes and some chopped walnuts to add a little texture and crunch to an otherwise "soft" dish. A little skeptical of adding too much seasoning here, I used just a pinch of allspice and curry to liven things up a bit. In the end, I love how these papoutsakia turned out. This is a great make-ahead side dish/appetizer as the flavors develop even better after sitting for a while. Moreover, you can serve this dish warm (not hot) or at room temperature.
Papoutsakia Nistisima/Lenten Stuffed Eggplants
Makes 6 servings
12 small eggplants
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium to large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup water
Pinch of sugar
Small bunch parsley, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of curry
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Clean eggplants and trim tops. Cut in half and with a spoon scoop out the flesh of each eggplant and set aside. Place the eggplant halves into a colander and season generously with sea salt. Leave the eggplants in the colander set over a large plate or in the sink while you make the filling.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Finely chop the eggplant flesh you've just scooped out. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the onion; saute until soft. Add the garlic and the chopped eggplant flesh and cook until the flesh is softened and browned. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and water and bring to boil. Add the sugar, parsley, walnuts, allspice and curry and cook for a couple minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Rinse the eggplant halves under cold water and shake the colander well to remove most of the moisture. Oil a large baking dish and line the eggplant halves up in the dish. Fill each eggplant half with filling (a couple of tablespoons should do). Drizzle with more olive oil, add a bit of water to the baking dish and place in the oven until the eggplant halves are softened. Serve warm or at room temperature.