The hubster hates it when we go to a restaurant and I eat something and say, “I bet I could make this at home.” He interprets it as, “Meh, I can do it better so we shouldn’t come here anymore,” while I’m thinking, “I like this! What are the underlying flavors. Can I make it or some variation of it when I’m having a craving/too lazy to go out to eat.” Yes. I’m one of those crazy people who stays in to eat when I’m feeling unmotivated or too blah. I live an exciting life 😉 Which brings me to this great Iraqi restaurant that we bike to in the summer that makes an amazing vegetarian tomato-based eggplant stew that’s garlicky and tangy. My mouth fills with drool just thinking about it. Since I can get my Iraqi eggplant stew fix by traveling a mere 3.3 miles, I’ll appease myself (and the hubby) with a spiced, smoky variation for those days when I can’t be bothered to go foraging for food. Ah, the many
gastronomic compromises of human relations 🙂
I chose garam masala here to add some depth and create an aromatic background for the bright tangy tomato, creamy eggplant, smoky bell pepper and meaty chickpeas cuz while I love chickpeas, I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t have a lot of inherent flavor. If you want more heat, switch out the sweet paprika for cayenne or if you want to keep some of that sweet smokiness, do a mix. Since it’s almost December (!) I’ve been mainly relying on the freezer remnants of our cherry tomato harvest supplemented with ever so convenient if flavor deficient canned tomatoes. Because this stew has so many assertive flavors, I’ve boosted the tang factor of the canned tomatoes with balsamic vinegar instead of the usual cider vinegar and a dollop of tomato-intense paste. Garam masala has pronounced notes of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom so if you’re not a fan of spices that can be sweet or savory, I’d decrease the amount of garam masala to 1/4 teaspoon.
The tip jar is empty 😉
2 tsp + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Chinese eggplant or 1 small globe eggplant, skin on and cut in half lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in half lengthwise
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
3 tsp (3 cloves) crushed garlic
3 tsp (2 inches) crushed ginger
1/2 tsp Hungarian (sweet) paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 c cherry tomatoes or 2 large ripe diced tomatoes
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 c low-salt vegetable or chicken broth (I used mushroom stock)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 loaf crusty rustic bread, optional
Freshly ground pepper
Oil a baking pan with 2 tsp olive oil and place eggplant and bell pepper skin side up in pan. Broil on highest oven rack till skin blisters and starts to turn black ~7-9 minutes. Set aside till cool enough to handle ~5 minutes. Peel of 1/2-2/3 of the blackened skin from the bell pepper and discard. Dice bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces and eggplant into 1-inch pieces.
In a large pot (~3 quarts) heat remaining olive oil on medium heat till aromatic but not smoking. Sauté onion till translucent and tender ~5-7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté till golden ~1 minute. Stir in paprika and garam masala then add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, broth, eggplant, and bell pepper. Cover and simmer till vegetables are very tender and falling apart ~15-20 minutes. Increase heat and boil till liquid is reduced by half ~10 minutes. Add chickpeas and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Makes 4 main servings or 6-8 side dish servings. Serve with bread.