Lebanese Eggplant Casserole (Shaykh al-Mihshi – which means “meal fit for a king) is my mom’s most requested dish and one of my all time favorite meals. I love her low-fat technique and her secret ingredient, allspice.
- 2 medium sized eggplant (see note below about how to pick out an 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 for flavor)
- 1.5 cups water (or fill the empty tomato sauce can 3/4 of the way full)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
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.”
FOR THE EGGPLANT –
- Wash and dry the eggplant. With a vegetable peeler, peel some of the skin off the eggplant. It will look like stripes when you are done (leaving all the skin can make it bitter or tough).
- Slice the eggplant into one-inch disks and lay them on a sheet pan.
- With a pastry brush, coat each slice with olive oil. Flip and repeat.
4. Place the sheet pan about 7 inches under the broiler and cook until the eggplant is extremely browned, verging on burnt – approximately 4 minutes per side. Watch them while they broil, as some pieces will need to be flipped and removed before others.
5. Remove from the broiler and place the eggplant in a single layer onto 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
- In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
- Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the ground beef, breaking it up as much as possible. Cook until the meat is starting to stick to the pan. While the meat is cooking 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 for a minute or two until starting to turn brown.
- Remove from 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 F. 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.