Peperoni Ripieni (Stuffed Peppers with Eggplant)
A beautiful package of Italian garden flavors, these peppers feature a smooth basil-spiked eggplant filling elegantly draped with melty, creamy cheese and a bite of tomato. Use the time when the eggplants are broiling to prep all the remaining ingredients and your baking dish. Inspired by a recipe by Joyce Goldstein in Cucina Ebraica.
- 3 large eggplants (3–3½ pounds in total)
- 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium sweet red bell peppers, halved lengthwise with stems, seeds and ribs removed
- ¼ fresh lemon
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
- ½ cup panko or fine breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces fresh burrata or mozzarella cheese, sliced into 8 pieces
- 1 large Roma tomato, thinly sliced
- Preheat broiler. Rub the eggplants and garlic with olive oil and prick eggplants all over with a knife or fork. Place eggplants and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until garlic is browned and tender (remove if it is done before the eggplant) and eggplants are charred and shriveled, turning a few times, about 30 minutes. Let the eggplants cool about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place peppers skin-side up on a baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil. Broil about 5 to 9 minutes, until the skins just start to brown. Remove. Turn oven to 375 degrees and adjust rack to middle position.
- Peel the garlic and eggplant skins and discard, placing flesh in a large bowl. If liquid accumulates in the bowl, drain most of it out before proceeding. Using an immersion blender (or mashing by hand), make a thick puree. Squeeze lemon over the mixture and stir in basil, panko or breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper to taste and 1 heaping tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese (save the rest for the topping). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Coat a baking dish with olive oil. Arrange the peppers hollow side up in the dish. Spoon in the eggplant mixture. Top with a slice of Roma tomato slightly overlapping a piece of burrata or mozzarella. Spread the remaining Parmesan over the top and sprinkle lightly with black pepper.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes tender. Serve warm, garnished with more fresh basil if desired.