Giant mushrooms stuffed with eggplant

    Serves 4

    • 8 very large, firm mushrooms (about 3 inches across)
    • 2 to 3 Tbs. butter
    • 1 medium-sized eggplant
    • 1 tsp. salt, and more to taste
    • 1 medium-sized red bell pepper
    • 2 Tbs. olive oil
    • ½ tsp. ground cumin
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
    • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
    • 2½ Tbs. minced red onion
    • ½ cup chopped walnuts
    • pinch of oregano
    • fresh-ground black pepper
    • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

    1. Clean the mushrooms carefully and take out the stems. Then, using a grapefruit spoon, melon baller, or very carefully with a knife, hollow out the centers a little, leaving a thick shell. Sauté the mushrooms in butter for a few minutes only, first on one side, then the other. Remove them from the heat and set aside.
    2. Peel the eggplant and slice lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Cut these lengthwise into strips ½-inch wide, then cut the strips to 1-inch lengths. Toss the strips with 1 teaspoon salt and leave in a colander for ½ hour.
    3. Seed the red pepper and cut out the white ribs. Cut it into julienne strips.
    4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the cumin, paprika, and minced garlic.
    5. Rinse the eggplant and press out all excess moisture. Sauté the eggplant and red pepper strips in the olive oil until they are just tender.
    6. Stir in the vinegar, tomato paste, minced onions, and walnuts. Season to taste with oregano, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper. Sauté for a couple more minutes, then stir in ½ the grated cheese.
    7. Spoon the filling into the hollowed-out mushrooms, shaping it into nice, even mounds. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
    8. Bake the mushrooms in a lightly buttered, covered baking dish in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes.
    9. Serve hot, if you like, with Spinach and Dill Rice.