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.
- 1 large eggplant or 2 small/medium (see note below about how to pick out an eggplant)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup minced yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (preferably Hunts)
- 1 1/4 cups water (or fill the empty tomato sauce can about 3/4 of the way)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
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” (left side of photo) 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 3/4-inch disks and lay them on a sheet pan.
- With a pastry brush, coat each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip them over and repeat.
4. Place the sheet pan about 7 inches under the broiler (I use low-heat broil setting) and cook until the eggplant is extremely browned, verging on burnt). Check on them every 2-4 minutes while they broil, as some pieces will need to be flipped and removed before others.
5. Remove eggplant from the broiler and place in a single layer onto a 9×13 inch casserole dish. You may need to squish the pieces of eggplant together in order for all of them to fit (they may not all fit).
6. With the back of a spoon press down into the center of each slice of eggplant to create a crevice for the ground beef to sit in.
For the beef:
- Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with oil, and set heat to medium/high.
- Add the 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 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. Once they are toasted, mix them into the meat mixture. Remove the pan from heat.
For the eggplant slices:
1. Place a spoonful of meat onto each slice of eggplant; press the meat down slightly with the back of the spoon (each slice of eggplant will be like a bowl filled with meat). It’s ok if the meat is spilling over the sides of the eggplant). Be careful not to add too much meat. There will most likely be meat left over, so just leave it in the pan and add the tomato sauce to it in the next step.
2. 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).
3. Add the water. Cook over medium heat until the tomato sauce starts to boil. Allow it to simmer about 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed.
4. Spoon the sauce over the eggplant; it should just about cover it.
5. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or just 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. I can also hear the sauce bubbling away when I open the oven door to check on it.
Serve with Rice Pilaf.