Eggplant Casserole

This is one of our all time favorite dishes.

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2 medium sized *eggplant
1 pound ground beef (about 10% fat)
2/3 cup minced yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can tomato sauce (preferably Hunts)
1.5 cups water (or fill the empty tomato sauce can 3/4 of the way full)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

*When picking out an eggplant choose a “male” which tends to have less seeds. To tell, look on the bottom – if there is a circle it is “male” and if there is a line it is “female.”

male-female-eggplant

Slice the eggplant into one inch size disks and lay them on a sheet pan.
With a pastry brush, coat each slice with olive oil. Flip and repeat.
Place the sheet pan under the broiler and cook until the eggplant is extremely browned, approximately 4 minutes per side. Watch them while they broil as some pieces will need to be flipped and removed before others.
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Place the browned eggplant in a 9×13 inch casserole dish. You will probably need to squish the pieces of eggplant together in order for all of them to fit (they may not all fit). With the back of a spoon press down into the center of each slice of eggplant to create a crevice for the ground meat.

For the meat:
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the ground beef over medium/high heat until the meat is well browned.
Add the allspice, salt and pepper. Taste the meat at this point to make sure it is well seasoned. Adjust salt/pepper/allspice as needed.When the meat is done, scoot it over to the side of the pan and toast the pine nuts.

Remove the meat from the heat and place a spoonful of meat onto each slice of eggplant, pressing down slightly. Each slice of eggplant will be like a bowl filled with meat.

To the same pan you used to cook the meat, add the tomato sauce and heat through (if there is meat leftover after topping the eggplant, just leave it in the pan and mix it into the tomato sauce).
Add the water. Cook over medium heat until the tomato sauce starts to boil. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Pour the sauce over the eggplant – it should pretty much cover it.

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 375/400 for about 25 minutes or until heated through. I use a glass casserole dish and when I see the sauce beginning to bubble in the bottom corner of the dish I know it is ready.

Serve with rice pilaf.

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