i mulingiani chini
Calabrian stuffed eggplant
grated pecorino (strong, sheep's milk cheese, if you can't find one double up on the parmigiano)
provola (soft, young cow's milk cheese with a slight tang)
you can watch Agata Zocali and me making these at her house in Calabria at No. 29
Halve the eggplant longways and scoop out the flesh to make little boats. Boil the boats and the flesh for about 7 minutes until they are soft but not falling apart. Remove as much water as possible and let them rest in a colander until they are relatively dry, it goes faster if you put them outside under the sun.
Remove the crust from the bread and, depending on how tenacious your bread is, either run it under the faucet or let it soak in water for up to 10 minutes. Squeeze the water out of the bread and rub it between your hands to make soft crumbs. Let that rest to dry out a bit.
Make a simple tomato sauce with a jar of passata (tomato pulp with no skin no seeds no flavorings), enough water to rinse out the bottle, a pinch of salt, two whole cloves of garlic and a few leaves of sweet basil. Bring to the boil and let it bubble until it is reduced slightly, 10 - 15 minutes.
Chop the eggplant pulp together with a good amount of garlic and sweet basil. Use your hands to mix in bread crumbs, salt and the cheeses. Add just enough beaten egg so the mixture holds together without being too wet.
Proportions are half eggplant pulp and half bread crumbs; use a lot of cheese and garlic and a good amount of sweet basil, it should be very flavorful.
Salt the little eggplant boats, fill compactly with the stuffing hiding a small slice of provola in the middle.
At this point you have options, you can either:
Fry them in a bit of olive oil until golden brown and eat as is.
Fry them in a bit of olive oil until the surface is sealed and then cook by letting them boil in the tomato sauce for 30 minutes (like we do for meatballs). Use the tomato sauce on pasta and serve the eggplant as a second course or just plop an eggplant on top of the pasta and eat it all together.
Bake them in a baking dish with some tomato sauce on the bottom and a bit of sauce on each eggplant, at 180 C / 350 F for 20-25 minutes. If you use some extra sauce you can serve it on pasta like above.
There is a meat option, Agata says it's useless since ground meat doesn't taste like meat and since the meat covers up the taste of the eggplant, true, but that's how most of the folks in Calabria make their mulingiani chini: use ground pork or a mixture of ground pork and ground beef making the ratio 1/3 eggplant pulp 1/3 bread crumbs 1/3 ground meat.
Finally .. cook's treat .. form the left over stuffing into croquettes and fry them olive oil until dark golden brown.