Stuffed eggplant riffs on Turkish bulgur dish

Tribune Content Agency

Published in 2016, “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook” continues to be the top-selling book for America’s Test Kitchen. That’s probably not surprising, given the popularity and health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, along with the rigorous testing that goes into all recipes.

When developing recipes, the Boston-based test kitchen gathers as many variations as possible of a given dish, chooses a half-dozen of the most promising recipes and then does a blind tasting of those dishes. After that, the test kitchen’s recipe is constructed and tweaked until the testers reach a consensus. Their motto is: “We make mistakes so you don’t have to.”

For this stuffed eggplant, the team found they were enamored with a Turkish dish called Imam Bayildi. “Nutty bulgur made a perfect filling base, plum tomatoes lent bright flavor and a bit of moisture, and Pecorino Romano and pine nuts provided richness,” the testers wrote in the recipe’s “why this works” summary.



When shopping, do not confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which has a much longer cooking time and will not work in this recipe.

Serves 4

4 (10-ounce) Italian eggplants, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur, rinsed

1/4 cup water

1 onion, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 pound plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup)

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lowest positions, place parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet on lowest rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Score flesh of each eggplant half in 1-inch diamond pattern, about 1 inch deep. Brush scored sides of eggplant with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay eggplant cut side down on hot sheet and roast until flesh is tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer eggplant cut side down to paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain.

Toss bulgur with water in bowl and let sit until grains are softened and liquid is fully absorbed, 20 to 40 minutes.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cinnamon and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in bulgur, tomatoes, 3/4 cup Pecorino, pine nuts and vinegar and let sit until heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return eggplant cut side up to rimmed baking sheet. Using 2 forks, gently push eggplant flesh to sides to make room for filling. Mound bulgur mixture into eggplant halves and pack lightly with back of spoon. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino. Bake on upper rack until cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Excerpted with permission from “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen.


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