Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce, Turkish Style

To get the most juice from a fresh pomegranate, bring it to room temperature and roll it back and forth between a flat work surface and the palm of your hand. Look for bottled pomegranate juice in Middle Eastern grocery stores and gourmet shops. Note: This dish may be prepared ahead of time, with the final baking done just before you're ready to serve it.

2 medium-size eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup ground walnuts
1 cup Vegetable Stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar or natural sweetener
1/4 cup fresh or bottled pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked basmati rice
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the eggplant halves cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake until partially softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the inside of the eggplant, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells intact. Coarsely chop the eggplant flesh and set aside along with the shells.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add half of the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, brown sugar, pomegranate juice, and lemon juice and blend well. Add to the sauce, reduce the heat to low, and simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.

5, Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and the bell pepper, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped eggplant and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking to blend the flavours, about 5 minutes, then transfer the eggplant mixture to a large bowl and stir in the rice, remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, the mint, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Divide the stuffing among the eggplant shells and arrange them in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake until the shells are tender and the filling is hot, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve topped with the walnut sauce.