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Vegetable Stuffed Eggplant

Dec 22, 2014 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Bella Sera
3297 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater
410-956-8555
bellasera-tasteofitaly.com

By Kimberly Cooper // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Bella Sera is a staple in Edgewater, a restaurant that people frequent day in and day out. As owner Roulan Mdawar walks through, he greets people warmly, with a friendly smile, handshake, or pat on the back. Mdawar knows a thing or two about pleasing customers and making them feel at home. It’s that warm, friendly atmosphere that keep patrons rolling into Bella Sera night after night. Mdawar shares with us his ideas on keeping people happy as well as his recipe for a new dish: vegetable stuffed eggplant. This is a new creation from Mdawar, one that has gone over well with customers lately.

What kind of importance do you put on locally sourced ingredients in your cooking?
You know, it depends on what people like locally.

Out of all the items on your menu, which is most popular with diners?
Most of it is simple Italian dishes, like chicken parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs. You have to have a few of those. Sometimes, people come in and they’ll want to try everything on the menu. But most people, they go back to the simple items like spaghetti and meatballs or eggplant parmesan.

What’s the secret to success when it comes to catering?
Giving advice. Knowing what is more easy to serve. Sometimes, there are choices that aren’t right, so you have to advise. Help people make the right choices. We catered a successful wedding and they chose the food, but we advised on what would be easy to eat and what would be popular.

What do you think is the key element in running a smooth kitchen?
The key is as simple as the staff working as a team. They work together. Everybody knows how to do everything, cook, make pizzas, even dishwashers. Everybody knows everything and they work together as a team.

How do you keep guests coming in?
First, customer service. Then food quality. But really, it feels like home. People have to feel comfortable, it has to feel like a home. If people don’t feel comfortable, they won’t come back. It has to feel like home here.

Where do you find inspiration for new dishes?
Sometimes, we create a dish from two other existing dishes. We’ll put things together to see how it tastes. We’ll try things out on customers, on people here. Just be creative. Sometimes, if a dish is good, we’ll put it on the specials menu for people to try.

What are some culinary trends you’ve noticed lately? Anything you’ve seen that you really love or really hate?
I love everything. When you love everything, you get more.

Where did this dish originate?
Sometimes, we try out dishes on friendly customers to see if they’ll like it. This is one we are trying.

What do you think is the most important ingredient?
The seasoning. In any recipe. There’s no taste without it, seasoning is what makes it taste good.

What drink would you pair with this?
If you drink, a nice glass of red wine would be fine.

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RECIPE
Serves 4 as an appetizer
  • 1/2 each of red, yellow, and green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • A few button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, 1 finely chopped, 1 sliced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • Few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Handful of chopped basil and parsley
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 graffiti eggplants
  • Olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt, and set aside for 15 minutes. The eggplants will release water. After 15 minutes, pat dry with a paper towel. In a bowl, mix together pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Transfer to a sauté pan and lightly sauté over medium. Use a spoon and top the eggplant with the mixture. Top with parmesan cheese, tomato slices, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.