Stuffed Baby Eggplant

While cooking for Gaura Purnima last year, I wanted to add a small stuffed vegetable to the menu. White eggplant were available at the market, and gave me the idea for this prep. It was so enjoyable, it's now a regular on our feast menus. You can use any of the small eggplant, from the green, walnut sized Thai type (below) to the purplish-white Japanese ones. My preference are the pure white, egg-shaped Thai type pictured here. They look beautiful when served, constrasting with the dark stuffing.

Baby eggplant (preferably white), 20
Almond butter, fresh ground, 4 Cups
Red Chili flakes, 2 to 3 teaspoons
Basil, fresh, 2-1/2 Cups
Ginger, 3 inches, minced
Lemongrass, 10 Stalks
Ghee, 4 Teaspoons

Slice eggplant in half horizontally, leaving the cap on the top half. Using a small melon baller or spoon, scoop out a small area in the center, about the size of a shelled walnut. (Save the discarded eggplant for later use.) Wash the lemongrass, and carefully peel off as many individual leaves as you can, keeping them as intact as possible. This gets difficult the closer you peel down to center, but you only need to have one leaf for each complete eggplant. Keep chopping off the bottom of the lemongrass stalk as you work, and they'll peel more easily.

Heat the ghee and fry the red chilis until browned. Add the minced ginger and fry until crisp. Chop the fresh basil into small pieces and add, frying for just another minute until soft and flavor has released into the ghee. Remove from heat and let cool, then add to the almond butter, blending in completely. Chill the mixture. When ready, use this mixture to fill the hollow spaces in each eggplant half. Don't overfill, because you'll want to put the two pieces snugly back together. Once filled, hold the two halves together (it helps if you keep the two matched halves together) and wrap a band of lemongrass tightly around the center. Wrap the stuffed eggplant in tin foil, pressing tight to keep the lemongrass in place. Seal the foil closed, but leave the top edges accessible so the bundle is easy to open later. Stand upright in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 45 minutes. Don't open the foil until ready to offer, so the wondrous aroma of lemongrass permeating the eggplant will emerge for the pleasure of Sri Krsna.


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