Stuffed Eggplant w/ Sunflower Romesco, Quinoa & Herbs - The First Messpin it!Stuffed Eggplant w/ Sunflower Romesco, Quinoa & Herbs - The First Messpin it!Sautéed eggplant + eggplant blitzed with romesco and tahini - The First Messpin it!Hollowed out eggplants pre-roast - The First Messpin it!
I had been thinking and thinking about this dish, the idea of it, for so long. I imagined this charred/grilled smoky eggplant with a harissa-ish sauce and herbed grains all stuffed inside, along with a light mash of the eggplant flesh that involved tahini and lemon. It seemed like the perfect summer entrée for the plant lovers. My attempts at keeping sturdy eggplant “boats” on a grill were brutal though! They turned into mush–delicious mush, but still mush. And I realized I had already done a grilled eggplant and harissa thing a while ago. I had to re-imagine this dreamy dinnertime scenario to bring it into reality.

When Jessica and I helped host a dinner at Botanica in LA, one of the courses was this moat of romesco on a plate that was served with golden-crispy potatoes and broccolini on top, and some grilled sourdough on the side. It was the dreamiest menu option I’ve ever experienced. A saucy thing with lightly charred vegetables and hecka good bread to mop the plate. Their romesco is something special, and while I’ve made and enjoyed the sauce so many times, I kept thinking about it after that trip. Romesco traditionally has a base of roasted peppers and almonds, but I was just making versions of it with whatever combination of nuts/seeds I needed to use up, and all of them were good!

This pure sunflower seed one is delicious and blissfully nut-free for those who need it to be. You guys know how much I love having a 100% crave-worthy sauce around. Once I get a batch of something I like, I apply it to just about anything I’m making and I won’t stop craving it until I inevitably go into overkill territory (see also: açai bowls and most doughnuts). But simple things like sauces make the difference for a lot of people! Maybe you feel eeeenh about broccoli, but if I douse it in garlicky/smoky/lightly spicy romesco, you’ll probably eat the whole bowl. For some, it’s the difference between eating vegetables and not. Really, my goal is always to get people to eat the vegetables/food that is kinder to them and the planet, so just please make some sauce for the people you love.

I’ve offered a ton of mods for this recipe in the headnotes, but for now I’ll suggest that you wait for a cooler evening to make this one since you’ll need the oven. And one more thing to mention before I pop out: If you’re in the Niagara region, I’m hosting a very cool event at Shannon Passero’s The Post Office on the evening of Thursday, July 27th. If you’ve been there, you know that the boutique is incredible, but there will also be wine, and I’ll be preparing so many delicious bites to eat from my cookbook. This is a free event, but we’d love for you to register HERE if you’re thinking about coming. Love and sunshine to you all this week :)

Sunflower Romesco Ingredients - The First Messpin it!Sunflower Romesco before Oil - The First Messpin it!Kitchen scene + garden lettuces/herbs - The First Messpin it!Stuffed Eggplant w/ Sunflower Romesco, Quinoa & Herbs - The First Messpin it!Stuffed Eggplant w/ Sunflower Romesco, Quinoa & Herbs - The First Messpin it!
Print the recipe here!
Serves: 4
Notes: If you want to keep this more traditional or “authentic” (not my fave word lol), use toasted almonds or even a mix of almonds and hazelnuts in place of the sunflower seeds.
-If you’d like to make this grain-free, try stuffing the eggplant with herbed cauliflower rice, or something like this recipe of mine from way back.
– I don’t have any concrete suggestions on lowering the amount of oil in the romesco, unfortunately. I found that the mixture tasted quite good before I added it though, but was a still little sharp/intense. Perhaps try ¼ cup of water in place of the oil and add more if necessary.
-Romesco is good in a sealed jar in your refrigerator for 5-7 days. I dare you to even TRY making it last that long though. I love it with grilled/roasted vegetables, tossed with pasta and chickpeas and herbs, and swooped up with crusty bread, obviously.
-If you’re starting from scratch with this recipe and finishing it to the end, no need to wash the food processor out after you make the romesco. You’ll need it for the eggplant!

SUNFLOWER ROMESCO (makes extra):
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 roasted red peppers (homemade or from a jar)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon aleppo pepper, or a pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons sherry OR apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
small handful flat parsley leaves
sea salt and ground black pepper
scant ½ cup virgin olive oil

2 small-medium eggplants
olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 small shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup romesco
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
4 servings cooked grain of choice (I used quinoa)
big handful of fresh and leafy herbs, chopped (I used cilantro, parsley & a bit of dill)
toasted sunflower seeds or dukkah, for topping

Make the sunflower romesco: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sunflower seeds, roasted red peppers, garlic, paprika, aleppo pepper, vinegar, tomato paste, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until all ingredients are finely chopped and lightly pasty. Scrape the bowl down. Then, with the motor on low, drizzle the olive oil in through the feed tube until fully incorporated. Check the sauce for seasoning. Transfer sauce to a sealable jar, and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, right through the stem. Using a paring knife, carve into the eggplant flesh all the way around the perimeter. Pry the eggplant flesh out of the eggplant halves with your fingers or a spoon and set it aside. Place eggplant halves on a baking sheet, facing up. Brush the eggplant halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake eggplant for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and lightly tender.

Roughly chop the scooped out eggplant. Heat a bit of oil in a medium-large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant and slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, and season with salt and pepper. Stir. Saute the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until tender, browned, and slightly reduced in size, about 4 minutes.

Carefully transfer eggplant to the food processor. Add the ¼ cup of romesco, lemon juice, and tahini to the food processor as well. Pulse the mixture until you have a chunky paste.

To serve, divide the warm eggplant filling evenly among the eggplant “boats.” Then, spoon your cooked grain of choice on top along with a sprinkle of chopped herbs. Garnish the tops of the stuffed eggplants with more romesco and toasted sunflower seeds or dukkah. Enjoy warm.

  • Michelle12/07/2017 - 8:28 am

    Yum! Literally making this romesco tonight!ReplyCancel

  • Maria12/07/2017 - 11:20 am

    Stuffed eggplants are the best. This romesco sauce looks gorgeous and delicious!! This looks bursting with flavor and herbs and everything good. I’m pinning it to make next month when our eggplants start to ripen!!ReplyCancel

  • Nick12/07/2017 - 12:00 pm

    Awesome! Eggplant is so underrated. Can’t wait to try this!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Maguire12/07/2017 - 12:08 pm

    Literally started salivating when I was reading your post. lol I think I need to make this romesco sauce ASAP. And maybe a double batch because I have a feeling we’ll be lucky if it lasts 2 days at our house.ReplyCancel

  • Sunflower Romesco!!!!!

    Any thought on an alternate vehicle to eggplant? I can’t wait to make this — thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laura13/07/2017 - 9:08 am

      One of my followers on Instagram said that they made this with a halved butternut squash and that it was quite good that way! You’ll have to extend the cooking time considerably if you go this route though. A larger/rounder zucchini would also be great here!

  • Jessie Snyder12/07/2017 - 2:47 pm

    You will always blow my mind with your creations, Laura, this is such a creative stunner. I love the way you see and manipulate vegetables! Its truly inspiring girl. Need to try romesco, I’m a newbie but you make it sound sos good! xxReplyCancel

  • nana12/07/2017 - 3:52 pm

    in the middle east we just roast the whole eggplant in the oven or on a grill / open fire, and when it’s ready scoop out part of the inside and mix it with whatever / stuff it back. then there’s no need to go through the process of treating the inside separately (which also soaks up a lot of oil).ReplyCancel

  • That romesco looks enchanting! Love the idea of using wallet-friendly (and tasty) sunflower seeds in place of almonds! Gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny16/07/2017 - 6:49 am

    This looks amazing. I have made stuffed zucchini before but never eggplants. Have to try this.ReplyCancel

  • Genna19/07/2017 - 2:51 pm

    Just made this last night, and it was phenomenal! Only took about an hour start to finish, and I served it with spinach, sunflower sprouts, sliced avocado, and more tahini. I’ve never had romesco before but now I’m addicted! Plenty of extra sauce to use this week on salads/sandwiches/etc :)ReplyCancel

  • Alex20/07/2017 - 9:54 am

    This is such an impressive idea for an elevated vegan main. Great for a dinner party :)ReplyCancel

  • […] My style of home cooking has a heavy Mediterranean influence.  This has a lot to do with how I was raised but also the flavours I am naturally drawn to.  The moment I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.  It reminded me of my childhood (minus the mince meat).  I think I’m going to give it a go on the weekend as It’s a dish that needs a little extra time and patients to prepare.   (The First Mess) […]ReplyCancel

  • Cassie Autumn Tran01/08/2017 - 3:32 pm

    The Romesco looks incredible as does the eggplant! I bet this is an amazing dish that combines the best savory flavors!ReplyCancel

  • […] we want to mix it up with something savory. This week that turned out to be a Spanish Tortilla with Romesco Sauce from The First Mess, though you could choose to top it with avocado, hummus, hot sauce, or whatever […]ReplyCancel

  • […] up with something healthy and savory. This week that turned out to be a vegan Spanish Tortilla with Romesco Sauce from The First Mess, though you could choose to top it with avocado, hummus, hot sauce, or whatever […]ReplyCancel

  • Lauren C22/01/2018 - 9:31 am

    This was delicious! Made it for my non-vegan boyfriend and he was very impressed. The only thing I changed was not pulsing the eggplant into a paste with the romesco and tahini. I just stirred some romesco and tahini into a bowl of sauteed eggplant and dividied that up in the bowls with quinoa. So good!! Will be making again.ReplyCancel

  • Marry24/06/2019 - 1:16 pm

    I loved this meal! My eggplant boats did not get tender enough though, so I’m thinking next time 375 degrees for 30 min and scooping them out and leaving only 1/4″ rim. What do you think?ReplyCancel

  • Jane05/09/2019 - 4:35 am

    Laura is it actual sherry or sherry vinegar? Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/09/2019 - 4:14 pm

      It is Sherry vinegar! Apologies for my late reply.

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