eggplant meatballs

I like eggplant in any shape — fried, sautéed or in a casserole.; I like to experiment; so one time I had an eggplant that I needed to use before it spoiled and I made meatballs.

Drain the eggplant very well and let it cool before you add the rest of ingredients; otherwise the heat will cook the egg and Parmesan cheese prematurely.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 large eggplant
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
4 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons onion, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
Monterey jack cheese, thinly sliced
Parsley, finely chopped

Grill eggplant over a burner on the stove until soft. Remove skin and chop. Boil eggplant with 1 cup of water for 4 minutes. Drain very well and mash. Cool. Mix eggplant with ground beef, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and eggs. Form the eggplant/meat mixture into golf ball-sized balls and place in a large shallow pan about an inch apart. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes and drain off any fat.

For the sauce, saute the onions and garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, parsley and oregano and simmer until thick, about 5 to 10 minutes.

To assemble the dish, spread half of the sauce into a clean baking pan; put the meatballs on top of the sauce. Pour remaining sauce over the meatballs. Place a 2-inch-square piece of cheese on top of each meatball and sprinkle with a little chopped parsley. Bake until cheese is melted.

Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer.

Recipe by Said Mostafa, The Record, Stockton, California