Papoustakia (Stuffed Eggplants)

Papoustakia is the Greek word for small shoes, and that’s what these eggplants resemble. Filled with a seasoned meat mixture and topped with creamy bechamel, they are a delicious way to prepare eggplants.

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4 eggplants
1 large onion
1 lb ground beef
2 garlic cloves
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 tbsp olive oil
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup Kefalotiri, grated
1/4 cup hot chili peppers (optional)

Ingredients – Bechamel
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tbsp Kefalotiri, grated

Add the oil into the pot. Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic and add to the pot with the oil.

Slice and discard the ends of the eggplants and cut the eggplants in half with the eggplant curve facing up towards you. Remove the flesh from the eggplants by cutting around the rim. Slice the flesh into strips and then chop. Brush the inside of the eggplant with a little olive oil to prevent discoloration.

Add the chopped eggplant to the pot along with the cumin and salt. Cook until the eggplant is softened. Once the eggplant is soft, add the tomatoes and the wine and reduce the liquid until it is almost gone. Allow the mixture to cool. At this point you can preheat your oven to 350°F.

While the vegetables cool, prepare the bechamel by first melting the butter. Once the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and mix in the flour to make a roux (will form a clumpy, glue like mixture). Slowly add the milk a little at a time and stir into the roux. (By adding it a little at time, you avoid clumps.) Continue until the roux becomes liquid (approximately 1 cup of the milk). Stir in the remaining milk and the nutmeg. Return to a low heat and continuously stir until the sauce thickens. Once thick, add the cheese and stir in until melted. Remove from heat. Beat the egg and slowly pour in some of the sauce to temper them. Once the egg has warmed up, whisk it into the sauce. Set aside.

Add the cooled vegetable mixture to the meat along with the tomato paste, and using your hands, blend the mixture well. If you like a bit of heat, finely chop and toast the chili peppers and add them to the meat mixture as well.

Using a tablespoon, fill each eggplant half with the meat mixture. Top with the prepared bechamel and sprinkle with cheese. Baked covered for 1 hour and then uncover for an additional 1/2 hour. Serves 4 to 6.

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