Lebanese Baked Eggplant
Maureen Abood - Food Writer
“Sheik ‘al Mishee": The name of this dish means “meal fit for a king” in Arabic—a fitting description for a favorite Lebanese specialty. My mother makes this as a homecoming meal when her five children and their families gather. We know we’re getting close to home when we start talking about how good the house must smell with the scent of Sheik ‘al Mishee emanating from Mom’s oven.
- 2 medium-sized eggplant
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound ground beef or lamb
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
Cut eggplant lengthwise in ½ inch slices. Cut slices in half crosswise.
Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with olive oil. Spray large jelly roll pan with oil and broil eggplant in batches until deeply browned, turning once to brown both sides
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium low heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add ground beef, breaking up the meat with a spoon. Season with salt, cinnamon, and pepper. Cook until meat is medium-well done, continuing to break up the meat into small pieces with a spoon.
Spray a 9x13x2-inch casserole with oil. Spread ½ cup of tomato sauce in bottom of casserole. Place eggplant slices over the sauce, covering as much surface area of the casserole as possible. Spoon ½ of the meat over the eggplant and pour 1 ½ cups tomato sauce over the meat. Sprinkle with ½ of the pine nuts. Repeat, layering eggplant, meat, pine nuts, and tomato sauce. Finish with a layer of eggplant and cover with more tomato sauce. Pour about 1 cup of water over casserole.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 ½ hours. Remove foil and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, if using, and remaining pine nuts. Bake for ½ hour longer, until cheese is bubbling and golden.
Remove from oven and serve immediately with rice, Lebanese pita bread, and a crisp Romaine salad.