Last week I purchased too many eggplants. First, because two of them were shaped funny I just had to get them. One had a weird growth that looked like a nose (Mr. Eggplant Head?) and the other was bent and reminded me of Jay Leno's chin. Second, because I've always loved the sweet and smoky flavor of eggplants simply fried with beaten eggs (tortang talong) or charred over the stove then seasoned with salt and ginger juice served with chopped tomatoes as a cold appetizer or salad. Recently I have been cooking and loving Middle Eastern-style food and used half of the eggplants in a chickpeas stew, the other half I made into ratatouille. This is the first time I made both dishes which are similar to each other, and I equally love them. They're both healthy vegetarian dishes which can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.Arabian Eggplant And Chickpea Stew
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds
½ cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 large onions, sliced thin
10 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 cup seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon
fresh lemon juice, optional
fresh mint sprigs for garnish
- Peel and halve the chickpeas; set aside.
- Cut the whole unpeeled eggplant into 2½-inch chunks. Salt the pieces and leave to drain in a colander for at least 1 hour.
- Rinse the eggplant, squeeze gently, and pat dry with paper towels. Working in batches, lightly fry the chunks in 5 tablespoons hot oil until golden brown; drain. Sprinkle the eggplant with pepper and set aside.
- In a 3-quart casserole with a tight-fitting lid, warm the remaining olive oil and add the onions. Saute them over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until limp and golden. Add the chickpeas and fry 2 minutes. Stir in the drained eggplant, unpeeled garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and paprika.
- Cover tightly and cook over low-medium heat without stirring 40 minutes. Carefully fold in the crushed garlic, parsley, vinegar, sugar, and allspice.
- Cook 10 minutes longer, or until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot or at room temperature. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice, if desired. Garnish with the mint.
ratatouille - the French pinakbet (minus the salted fish and pork):-)