Beef & Eggplant: A Prelude to a Greek Summer

During the weeks leading up to my family’s departure to Greece every summer, I’m always inspired to cook dishes which will leave my home with those familiar aromas I so enjoy while I’m in that beautiful Mediterranean country.  One of my favorite aspects of the Greek cuisine is that it is very seasonal. For example, typical salads served during the summer months, like horiatiki, most commonly known as “Greek” salad, are replaced with salads like raw cabbage with carrots during the winter months.

Eggplant is abundantly available during the summer months, and it is incorporated into numerous Greek dishes. One of my favorite dishes to make, which incorporates this bulbous, perennial fruit, is a slow-cooked combination with chunks of beef, tomato, and parsley. Although this dish takes a few hours to complete, it really doesn’t require much labor on your part. You only need to plan ahead, allowing enough time to complete the meal before stomachs begin to growl, or at my home, howl.

This dish melts in your mouth, and it is a fabulous choice to serve for a dinner party. Pair it with a simple salad, or a summer vegetable side dish, such as broad beans or zucchini. I tend to eat this dish with slices of freshly baked bread and some feta cheese, but you could always make a side of rice or orzo pasta. It’s really up to you and the depth of bellies you must fill. Enjoy! And Viva Summer!!!

Yield: 4 main course meals

1- 1.5 lbs. organic beef stew meat, left in large chunks
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
20 oz. fire roasted crushed tomatoes (like Muir Glen brand)
appx. 1 c. water
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. olive oil

1 lg. eggplant (or 4-5 small eggplants), peeled, ends removed, and chopped in 2″ pieces
1 Tbl. sugar
1/2 c. olive oil (you may need slightly less or more)

Heat half the oil (1/8 c.) on medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof sauté pan. When hot, add the meat. (Be sure to season the raw meat slightly with salt and pepper, rubbing it in, which will aid in optimal seasoning.) Brown the meat on both sides, then add the chopped onion and garlic. Pour in the other 1/8 c. of olive oil, and give a good couple of twists of salt and pepper. Allow the onions to cook until translucent (about 3-4 minutes), then add the tomatoes, water,  and chopped parsley. Give it a good stir, cover, and allow to stew on very low heat for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, in another pan, on very low heat, add 1/2 c. oil and the eggplant pieces. Toss to coat the eggplant with the oil, sprinkle in the sugar, then cover and allow to cook slowly. Do not move the pieces too much or the eggplant with fall apart. You want the pieces to stay intact as much as possible. Allow to cook through, about 1 hour. Set aside.

About 30 minutes prior to the meat finishing on the stove top, preheat your oven to about 400°F. Place the eggplant pieces gently into the meat sauce. Place the pan on the lower third of the oven, uncovered, and allow to continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Remember that pan handle will be hot after the oven! I recommend placing an oven mitt over the handle once you remove the pan from the oven. (I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten just how hot that handle was before I grasped it!)

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