Celebrate the end of summer and beginning of fall with these plant-based, bulgur stuffed eggplants!
I tend to think of eggplant as a summer vegetable. But where I live, it’s really a late summer and early fall vegetable. When eggplants first show up at the farmers market, in all of their deep purple glory, I become very excited. Two weeks ago there were none, and now, suddenly, they’re everywhere!
I may have overdone itlast weekend when I picked up eight—yes, eight!—eggplants. These bulgur stuffed eggplants with tamarind, currants & pine nuts have been a delicious way to use up my haul.
The first time I tried tamarind, it was mostly out of curiosity. I’d been inspired by a couple of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipes, namely her tamarind lentils in Veganomicon and her tamarind BBQ tempeh and tamarind quinoa in Appetite for Reduction. I loved the intensely sweet/tart flavor right away, and since then my savory spiced tamarind lentils have been a regular addition to bowls.
I tend to associate certain seasonings with specific dishes and become attached to using them only that way. Tamarind is more versatile than I allow it to be in my kitchen. Inspired to branch out, I began reading more about how tamarind can be used in a wide range of recipes. I also grabbed some tamarind paste in my most recent Nuts.com pantry refill.
Nuts.com is an incredible one-stop resource for legumes, grains, pastas, spices, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and more. I’m always so impressed with the website’s selection, friendly customer service, fast shipping, and freshness. I use the site for staples, like beans and grains, but I also appreciate its emphasis on global seasonings and ingredients, tamarind included.
I’m accustomed to using bulgur wheat in grain salads, like my lemony bulgur chickpea salad and my sweet potato bulgur citrus salad. But the grain is versatile beyond that: it’s great for a simple pilaf, as a base for plant-based chili, or even as an ingredient for vegan meatballs.
Bulgur wheat is the star filling ingredient here, and it does its job well. The texture of bulgur is perfect for a stuffing, and it cooks quickly, so you can boil it while the eggplant starts to bake. If you’re gluten or wheat free, you can use quinoa or millet in its place.
I’ve made stuffed eggplants in the past by trying to remove the flesh while the eggplants are still raw. It usually turns into a mess, because the flesh is tough to scoop out without damaging the eggplant skins.
When I came across Ali‘s recipe for twice baked eggplant parmesan in Bread Toast Crumbs, I was inspired to try a new method. It consists of baking the eggplant first, then scooping out the cooked flesh, adding it to the filling, and returning it to the eggplant skins before another bake.
And that’s what I chose to do for these bulgur stuffed eggplants. It added a little cooking time, but it actually made the whole process less finicky and error prone. Scoring the eggplans before cooking helped me to set the flesh free, too.
I cooked the eggplant with onion, tomato, spices, currants, and pine nuts, as well as the tamarind and bulgur. That would have been a tasty meal in itself. But it’s hard not to love the pretty presentation of the whole, stuffed eggplants. Especially after they’ve been smothered in chopped parsley and tahini. They’re a great option for entertaining.
The tahini dressing really isn’t optional here—or at least, I don’t recommend making the recipe without it! It adds moisture and a welcome dose of lemon and garlic to the finished dish. You can use my every day lemon tahini dressing, tahini lime drizzle, tahini green goddess dressing, or tahini mint dressing. You can definitely add some extra tamarind paste (it’s intense, so not too much), or a handful of extra toasted pine nuts, too.
Once made, stuffed eggplant leftovers will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. I don’t recommend freezing this dish, unfortunately. But you can cook the bulgur and make the tahini dressing ahead of time if you need to streamline the cooking process.
This meal was a perfect way to welcome eggplants around this summer. My kitchen smelled incredible by the time the eggplants finished baking, and I loved all of the texture of the dish. The leftovers are keeping really nicely so far, and I have just enough extra stuffing to use up in simple lunch bowls.
It’s so worth investing in an ingredient or seasoning that’s still sort of new, finding new ways to make it shine. I’m excited to keep working through my tamarind paste and have big plans for some homemade chutney this coming weekend. For now, happy stuffing 🙂
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