Badımcan Dolması

Tomato, sweet pepper, and aubergine stuffed with minced lamb mixed with chickpeas. This is probably the most popular dish prepared in Azerbaijan in summer. When vegetables and fruits are in abundance, Azerbaijani women like to stuff them:) They stuff eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, quince and even apples! The general name for all the stuffed yummies is Dolma, which means stuffed in Azeri.

Stuffed Eggplants, Peppers and Tomatoes (Badimjan, BibervePomidorDolmasi) 

Serves 4 to 6

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter 
For the Shells: 6 small black skinned eggplants (about 12 cm long and 4 cm in diameter) 
6 medium green bell peppers 
6 large firm tomatoes 
ground black pepper

For the Stuffing: 
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter 
1 1/2 pounds (700 g) ground beef or lamb 
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped 
1 medium green pepper (pointed or bell), finely 
chopped chopped tomato pulp* (see the recipe) 
1 cup chopped fresh basil 
½ cup cooked and split chickpeas (1/4 cup dried, boiled in slightly salted water and drained), optional salt, to taste 
ground black pepper, to taste

1. Prepare the shells.This is the easier method and takes less time than the second. Cut off the stalk end of the eggplants. Make a lengthways slit in each taking care not to cut right through. Fill a pan with water and bring to a boil. Gently drop the eggplants into the boiling water, and simmer for about 2 minutes, using a slotted spoon to keep them submerged. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove the seeds from the eggplants with a spoon or by rubbing the eggplants gently between the palms of your hands to let the seeds fall out. Set a side.

Peppers: Start cutting tops off the green peppers about 1/2 inches (4 cm) from the stems and stop when you obtain lids attached to the peppers. Remove the seeds and ribs and set aside.

Tomatoes: Remove the stems. Start cutting tops off the tomatoes about 1/2 inches (4 cm) from the stems and stop when you obtain lids attached to the tomatoes. Scoop out the pulp, finely chop it and reserve for the stuffing*.

2. Make the stuffing. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ground meat and cook until the released liquid has evaporated and the meat has nicely browned. Add the onions and cook for 5-10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped pepper and tomato pulp and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Add the fresh herbs, and if using, cooked and split chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

3. Sprinkle inside of the shells with some salt and black pepper and fill them with the stuffing. Cover the top of the peppers and tomatoes with their lids. Place the vegetables side by site in a deep frying pan. Pour 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified over the top. Cover and simmer over low to medium heat for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender (but not mushy!) and the liquid has reduced to the syrupy consistency.