Paleo Halloween Dinner: Eggplant Impletata Inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula

I have lots of fresh eggplant from my garden to help me with this next recipe!

Part two of my recipes inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula is Eggplant Impletata, or stuffed eggplant, which has quite a few interpretations across cultures. As described in the text:

"I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was 'mamaliga', and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call 'impletata'. (Mem., get recipe for this also.)"

I love Harker's memo to remember the recipe.

From a quick Google search, I found quite a few interpretations of this dish (as well as fellow Dracula enthusiasts), many of which involve a sausage stuffing. I wanted to make my own interpretation and highlight some of the Eastern European spices I've been loving lately. I modeled this after a Turkish stuffed eggplant dish I made many years ago from a cookbook I no longer have. Basically, you prep the eggplants like you would twice baked potatoes. The trick is to salt the eggplant to remove the brown, bitter juices. As these eggplant were small and fresh from my garden that wasn't much of an issue. Then you need to cook them until the center is soft and silky, which is used in the stuffing. My interpretation of "forcemeat" has sweetness from the tomato and paprika but also some herb flavor and a nice chili kick. I bet it would also be awesome stuffed inside a baked sweet potato!

Eggplant Impletata
Printable Recipe

3 small eggplants (about 1/2 lb each)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili flakes, to taste
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp dried savory
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1. Trim the stem of the eggplant so it's very short. Pull back on the leaves to remove them. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, score the eggplant flesh, in a cross-hatch pattern, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Sprinkle cut-side with salt and place cut-side down on several layers of paper towel to catch the bitter juices that will come out, about 30-60 minutes. Afterwards, rinse salt away and pat dry. Turn upside down on more paper towels to dry further while you finish the filling.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the "forcemeat": heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and chili flakes and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling, until cooked through. Add all the seasonings, tomatoes, and tomato paste along with salt and pepper. Stir in until combined, and simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes or until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. This can be done a day or two ahead.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place dried eggplant cut-side up on a baking tray (line with foil for easy clean up). Brush each half with remaining olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender.

4. Using a fork, remove some of the flesh leaving a shell for the filling, being careful not to pierce the skin. Blend the eggplant flesh with the meat mixture. Stuff each eggplant half generously with filling. Place in a greased 13x9" baking dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes more, making sure the eggplant is fork tender all the way to the skin and the filling has set on top. Rest 10 minutes before removing. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.

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