Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mediterranean Eggplant Stew



Being Lebanese, I’m a huge eggplant lover.  We prepare eggplants in a variety of delicious ways.  So, I was thrilled to find just about every kind of eggplant known to man at my local Italian market. Craving something along the lines of ratatouille, I pulled out my trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven and got to work on creating this savory stew.  This is a healthy, filling and comforting stew that can be eaten with a side of crusty whole grain bread. Alternatively, it can be served over creamy polenta, couscous, mashed potatoes, rice, gnocchi, ravioli, bulgar wheat, quinoa or pasta. Grilled cheese sandwiches or garlic bread would be great with it too. It’s a wonderful sidekick for a plain quiche or fluffy scrambled eggs. It’s good eaten hot or at room temperature.If you so desire, add chopped chicken to it or a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas and cook as directed. Some toasted pine nuts and/or Nicoise olives are also welcome here. I like to finish it off with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Warm spices, common to Lebanese cooking, deepen the flavor of this stew. 


Mediterranean Eggplant Stew Recipe

Makes a large pot full

Some Notes 

This one-pot recipe instructs you to prepare the vegetables in stages, ensuring they cook properly. But it’s very easy to do and takes under an hour.

I use Pomi Chopped Tomatoes in this recipe for their fresh, unmatched flavor. They come in a box. I find them in my regular supermarket. If you can find them, grab them. 
Trust me on the addition of a few pinches of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of allspice. These spices are common to Middle Eastern cooking. They’ll lend subtle warm flavors to this dish, making it cozier. But you won’t be able to detect them as cinnamon and allspice. 

Garbanzo bean flour is used to thicken this stew beautifully. I highly recommend picking up a bag and using it in your vegetarian/vegan stew recipes. You won’t have any more problems with watery vegan/vegetarian stews with this tip. Use equal parts garbanzo bean flour and cold water to thicken the stew. The more of this mixture you add, the thicker the stew will be. Bob’s Red Mill makes both gluten free and regular versions. I find the regular garbanzo bean flour in my supermarket. You don’t have to thicken this stew with the bean flour but I highly recommend it.   


Ingredients
  • 3 small eggplants, 5-6 inches long, chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, green and red, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 small to medium zucchini, chopped. Smaller zucchini are better here.
  • 2 26.46-ounce boxes of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes or two 28-ounce cans of quality chopped tomatoes
  • A generous handful of black olives such as nicoise or kalamata (optional)
  • A couple of pinches of ground cinnamon
  • A small pinch of ground allspice (optional but good)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • A generous drizzle of honey or some sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garbanzo bean flour mixed with one tablespoon cold water to thicken the dish (see notes)
  • Salt to taste and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Serving Options: dash of red chili flakes, toasted pine nuts, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, crusty bread, dollop of Greek yogurt

Instructions

Saute the onions and bell peppers in a large pot with some olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. I used my dutch oven. Once the onions and peppers have softened, add the chopped zucchini and eggplant with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in a small pinch of allspice, a few pinches of cinnamon and the dried oregano. Add the tomatoes and honey. Adjust the salt. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened and the flavors have mellowed and melded together. Stir in the garbanzo bean and water mixture and the olives. Taste. Adjust salt, pepper and spices. Cook for one more minute. Serve with any of the above suggestions and enjoy! 

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