Sun dried tomatoes are amongst my favourite ingredients. They are in my 'top ten list' of 'can't-do-without' summer goodies. They end up in a wide range of gluttonies/treats here at home, but lately I've been quite obsessed with pesto. It's exciting to try out different versions, textures and flavours, just adding or changing an ingredient or varying its quantity!
As you may have probably noticed the italian word 'pesto' is now associated with anything that is made by pounding, and modern pesto recipes include the most exotic and strangest ingredients you can find at your local market or grow in your home garden.
I stick to basics though, and I usually try a combination of the following elements:
fine herbs (basil/thyme/parsley) +
nuts (pine nuts/almonds/hazelnuts/peanuts)+
garlic (what else?)+
an extra special ingredient, like parmesan or, as in this case, sun dried tomatoes.
Extra virgin olive oil is an essential element too, of course, but I admit I take it for granted....
Back to this recipe...I prepared this sun dried tomatoes pesto to season a wholemeal rice salad. Then, I simply decided to use the salad leftovers to stuff some nice globe aubergines I had ready at hand.
Temperatures have dropped lately, and heavy rains have been falling for days this week, so I had no hesitation in switching on the oven and baking all sort of goodies I craved for (including plum and almond clafoutis, roasted vegetables lasagne, zucchini and feta cheese tart).
If you can't find globe aubergines consider you can stuff any kind of vegetables you like (cooking times will vary accordingly) with whatever grain you have in the fridge (although you can of course make some if you don't have any).
Ingredients (serves 6):
globe aubergines: 8 small
wholemeal rice: 180 gr/ 4/5 cup
tomatoes: 2 small - chopped
garlic: 1 clove
extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoons
vegetable stock: 1 small glass
some extra olive oil for the baking sheet
sun dried tomatoes pesto ingredients:
olive oil packed sun dried tomatoes: 4 tomatoes - chopped
almonds: 40 gr/ 1/4 cup - toasted
garlic: 1 small clove
thyme: 3/4 teaspoon of fresh leaves - washed and drained
extra virgin olive oil: 2 teaspoons
salt: 1 pinch or more according to taste
appple vinegar: 1 teaspoon
Wash the rice carefully. In a large saucepan bring some water to boil, add salt and wolemeal rice and let it simmer for approximately 30/40 minutes. Drain the rice with cold water and reserve.
Meanwhile wash the aubergines and slice off top stem-side. Carefully scoop out the interior flesh,
leaving at least 1cm-thick border around the edges. Be careful not to tear or pinch the sides or bottom.
Place the eggplant halves in a baking dish covered with baking sheet drizzled with olive oil.
Chop the aubergines flesh finely and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft and brown (not burnt!). Remove garlic, add the reserved aubergines flesh and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add tometoes and cook for other 5 minutes. Reserve.
Peel th garlic and remove central core. Blend garlic, almonds and thyme in a food processor, and process until they are finely chopped; then add the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, apple vinegar and salt (and pepper if you like so). Blend until all the ingredients are mixed together and you get a very thick pesto sauce. Slowly add water to thin down your pesto.
Preheat the oven to 180° C degrees.
In a large bowl mix together rice with the reserved cooked vegetables (aubergine flesh and tomatoes) and season with the sun-dried tomato pesto.
Lightly salt the aubergines shells, fill them with the stuffing and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Add some of the vegetable stock and loosely cover the baking dish with foil, bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and add the remaining stock, bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the outer skin of aubergines is tender.