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Libyan-Style Stuffed Vegetables
New Jewish Holiday Cookbook
This tasty dish is often served on Shabbat by Libyan Jews such as Liora Ben-Chaim Zandman, a resident of Jerusalem. Just a year after Israel became a state, Mrs. Zandman and her family left their home in Tripoli and "made aliyah" (immigrated to Israel). In her adopted country, she married and raised a family, but still kept cooking the delicious dishes of her native land.
Though many of her favorite foods are obviously Middle Eastern in style and taste, they have distinctively Jewish touches, such as the matzah meal in the following meat stuffing.
In this recipe, potato and eggplant slices are stuffed, then fried in a tasty coating that helps hold them together, and finally simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce. If desired, mafroum can be prepared using only eggplant or potatoes.
Prepare the vegetables as follows: Use a sharp knife to cut off the ends of the eggplant; then cut I crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices. Carefully slit each slice almost in half to form two thin slices that are connected at one end. (It may be easier to do this by cutting 3/8-inch crosswise slices from the whole eggplant, but only slicing every other one completely through.)
Peel the potatoes; then cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Slit the slices almost in half, as with the eggplant.
To stuff the vegetables, use your fingers to firmly pack the meat stuffing inside each slit slice, forming "sandwiches" that look like partially open clamshells. The stuffing layer should be about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. It will be slightly more difficult to stuff the potatoes, as they do not give as easily as the eggplant.
In a large Dutch oven, soup pot, or very large, deep skillet, heat about 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil. Lightly coat each sandwich with flour, then the beaten egg. Fry the sandwiches in the oil, in batches, until they are golden brown on both sides. Set them aside on a plate. (If desired, the recipe may be prepared ahead of time up to this point, and the sandwiches refrigerated until about an hour before serving time.)
For the sauce, pour all the oil from the pot except about 1 tablespoon (or add more oil, if necessary). Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is tender. Stir in the tomato paste, water, and seasonings to taste. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Carefully add all the fried sandwiches to the sauce, trying to have no more than two layers. The sauce should almost, but not completely, cover them. Add a bit more water, if necessary.
Cover the pot, and simmer the vegetable sandwiches for about 1 hour, or until they are tender and the meat is cooked through. Occasionally baste the top vegetables with some of the sauce.
To serve, use a slotted spoon to remove the stuffed vegetables from the pot to a serving platter. If the sauce seems too watery, quickly boil it down until it reaches a thicker consistency. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Pour some of the sauce over the vegetables, and serve the rest on the side.
Makes about 6 servings.
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