Bigger, globe eggplants can be super bitter, but Japanese eggplants are sweet and worth seeking out. The pecans add a nice nuttiness and take this from a side dish to a main course: a real vegetarian dream.
The key to making simple roasted eggplant extra delicious is to roast it until it’s really, really tender and golden. When in doubt, leave it in to roast a little longer.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Trim the ends from the eggplants and slice them in half lengthwise. Sprinkle with salt and brush with the oil. Place the eggplants on the prepared baking sheets and roast for 35 minutes, or until soft and completely tender.
While the eggplants roast, heat a large dry sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and toast, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until its aromatics are released. Stir in the butter and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and release some liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and gently fold in the millet, mint, cilantro, and lemon zest and set aside.
Remove the roasted eggplant from the oven and let it cool down enough to handle. Take 4 halves of the eggplant and dice into medium cubes, including the skin. Scoop out the flesh of the other 4 halves and dice it (reserve the skins). Combine the chopped eggplant with the mushroom and tomato mixture.
Place the 4 scooped-out eggplant shells back on the baking sheet and stuff with the filling. Top with the breadcrumbs and return to the oven. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs brown slightly. Grind pepper over the eggplant. Drizzle with chile oil, if desired. Serve.
Butter Pecan Breadcrumbs:
Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the panko, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs begin to turn golden brown , about 3 minutes. Add the pecans and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has a nutty fragrance, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat. Makes 3/4 cup.