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Eggplant stuffed with saffron rice, apricots, and chickpeas

(Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe)
June 13, 2012
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Serves 4 with leftovers

6small eggplants (6 inches each), halved lengthwise
6tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1cup water
½cup basmati rice
teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1medium onion, chopped
¼teaspoon ground cinnamon
12dried apricots
1can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained
cup sliced almonds
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Have on hand two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes.

2. With a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out the eggplant pulp, leaving a ¼-inch shell. Arrange the eggplant shells in the baking dishes in one layer. Brush with 4 tablespoons of the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour -inch water into the bottom of each dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the shells are tender when pierced with a skewer. Transfer them to a plate to cool. Discard the water in the baking dish.

3. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the eggplant pulp.

4. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the rice, a generous pinch of salt, and the saffron. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 18 minutes or until the rice is tender when tasted. Let rice rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

5. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon and stir well. Add the eggplant pulp, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until softened. Stir in the apricots, chickpeas, almonds, and cooked rice.

6. Spoon about ½ cup filling into each eggplant shell. Reserve and refrigerate 4 stuffed eggplant halves for the lettuce wraps. Set the remaining eggplant halves in the baking dish.

7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until hot all the way through.

8. Set 2 halves on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Sally Pasley Vargas

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