Iâ€™ve been awayâ€¦ I was in New York for a few days over the Easter break.
As usual, I had a marvellous time â€“ I ate macarons in the park, afternoon tea at the Met, ate crack pie at midnight in the East Village, and had a soy macchiato every morning from Eatalyâ€™s Caffe Vergnano.
I wish I could have stayed a little longer; I felt oddly homesick when I returned home, and itâ€™s been difficult getting back to the mundane.
Which isnâ€™t to say that this sweet and sour eggplant recipe Iâ€™m about to share with you is mundane.
Far from itâ€¦ itâ€™s comforting, like an embrace â€“ the kind of food you want to eat when youâ€™re a little down.
Stews and soups does it for me… itâ€™s in my blood, my friend K. who fancied himself a poet used to say;
How do we know weâ€™re Ghanaian? Because we were raised on stews and soups and starches and highlife music, thatâ€™s how we know!
And although this dish has tangy Middle Eastern flavours, it still takes me back to those homely eggplant stews I ate with rice and starchy root vegetables when I was little.
It has chickpeas, and a trinity of onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Pomegranate molasses and sumac makes this eggplant dish sweet and sour.
I recently discovered sumac, the bright reddish spice that tastes refreshingly lemony; that and the pomegranate molasses infuses this dish with its sweet and tartness.
The ingredients meld and come together to create a very distinctive flavour when you let this stew simmer for a few minutes.
It’s savory, tart, slightly sweet, spicy and salty; wonderful with saffroned rice for dinner.
It may not be a trip to the Big Apple, but it’s the comforting nourishment one needs to get back into the swing of things.
Sweet & Sour Eggplant with Tomatoes & Chickpeas
(slightly adapted from The New York Times)
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise then cut in 1/2-inch slices
- Salt to taste
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, grated or peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 small habenero peppers
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
- 1 cup black beans (optional)
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, or a combination of mint and parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with foil, and oil it with olive oil.
- Lay the eggplant slices on top, salt lightly and brush with olive oil.
- Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft (the surface will be dry)
- Remove from the heat, and fold over the foil to make a packet around the eggplant slices
- Allow them to soften and steam inside the foil for 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-lidded saucepan or skillet
- Add the onions and garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute
- Stir in the tomatoes, peppers and salt to taste
- Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell very fragrant
- Add the eggplant, molasses and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time
- The mixture should be thick and the eggplant should be very tender, melting into the mixture
- Taste and adjust seasoning
- Sprinkle on the parsley and/or mint, and serve. or, allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature