Tonight's dinner came from the September 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. I haven't picked up this magazine in years, but the cover of this issue appealed to me so I bought a copy. I found a lot of tasty-sounding dishes. I picked this recipe to begin with because it reminds me of the Lebanese eggplant dish I had at Lebanese Taverna so many years ago that I have unsuccessfully tried to replicate so many times. Once again, I failed, but this wasn't too bad. It was kind of bland, but the mint was nice (yes, I used fresh mint! I'm getting better about fresh herbs!) and the eggplant cooked to a lovely texture. I added some pine nuts, too, which was great. We both wished it was more flavorful, but it wasn't bad. I probably wouldn't make it again though.
A note about cooking directions: I don't have a Dutch oven that can be transferred to the oven (though I might register for a Le Creuset one now, haha!) so I made the stovetop part in a stockpot, and then transferred it into a casserole dish that I'd been heating in the oven while prepping everything else. It worked out very well.
Braised Lebanese Eggplant with Chickpeas
Slow-cooking eggplant in tomato sauce makes it incredibly silky and tender. Choose a marinara sauce that has few ingredients as possible so the flavors don't overwhelm the eggplant.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
6 medium Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 cup marinara sauce
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 large mint sprigs, plus 2 Tbsp chopped mint
Preheat oven to 325. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 7 minutes, or until soft. Stir in eggplant, and cook 5 minute or until beginning to brown. Add garlic, allspice, and cumin, and cook 1 minute more.
Stir in marinara sauce, vinegar, and 2/3 cup water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Lay mint sprigs on top of eggplant mixture, cover, and transfer pot to oven. Cook 45-50 minutes, or until eggplant is tender. Remove mint sprigs, and stir in chopped mint. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Yield: 6 servings