In compiling recipes for the cookbook, it’s a gentle surprise to find that some seem to have been border-hopping for generations. Vepřové žebírko s jabulky a cibulí, for example, is Pork Chops with Apples and Onions–a winter staple in American families as equally as it is in Czech families, as it turns out. “You grew up eating this, too?” we exclaim a few times an evening, stumbling over cookbooks.

This Stuffed Eggplant recipe is one of these.

Plněné lilky (Stuffed Eggplant)

Plněné lilky (Stuffed Eggplant)

Stuffed Eggplant

2 small eggplants (or 1 large eggplant)
vegetable or olive oil, for frying
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 strips bacon
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
grated Parmesan
vegetable oil

Clean and halve the eggplants. Scoop out as much flesh as possible, without leaving a hole. Arrange eggplant halves in an oiled baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 400°F for 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned.

Meanwhile, chop eggplant flesh and sauté in oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, sauté bacon until fairly crispy; remove, chop, and set aside. Add onion and garlic, and sauté for a few minutes before returning eggplant and bacon to pan for a final toss together. Turn off heat, season mixture with salt and pepper, add egg, and mix together.

Divide the mixture between the eggplant halves. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F, and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve with potatoes or bread. (Rice or orzo would also round out the dish.)

Since I added basil and oregano to the eggplant, bacon, and onion mixture, the result is a Czech-Italian hybrid…

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One American-sized eggplant would have fed a whole family, but little Italian ones would be ideal as appetizers.

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There’s a strange beauty in stuffing vegetables–everything seems to fit together, but there’s a lot more of it than when you started. This filling lends itself to additions of everything from sautéed mushrooms and fresh breadcrumbs to crabmeat, sundried tomatoes, or chopped nuts.

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Exactly where this recipe came from is a mystery, to me. It’s one of the dozens from my mother-in-law’s card file; many of them probably came from a larger work published by the Kalich house (where J’s mother worked as an editor) in the late ’80s or early ’90s. After J’s mother’s death, though, there was little cooking from scratch going on in the family, except when Dana came for Christmas, and the recipes sat on a pantry shelf in clear plastic strawberry cartons. When we moved in, I asked J’s father if we could have a shelf for our arborio rice and jumble of spice jars, and when I moved aside a woven-reed breadbasket, I discovered the stack of recipes that reminded me instantly of my mother’s collection.

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