I’ve been away… I was in New York for a few days over the Easter break.
As usual, I had a marvellous time – 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 Eataly’s Caffe Vergnano.
I wish I could have stayed a little longer; I felt oddly homesick when I returned home, and it’s been difficult getting back to the mundane.
Which isn’t to say that this sweet and sour eggplant recipe I’m about to share with you is mundane.
Far from it… it’s comforting, like an embrace – the kind of food you want to eat when you’re a little down.
Stews and soups does it for me… it’s in my blood, my friend K. who fancied himself a poet used to say;
How do we know we’re Ghanaian? Because we were raised on stews and soups and starches and highlife music, that’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