Lebanese Eggplant Moussaka Stew
Based on a lovely dish served up at one of my favorite Lebanese restaurants in Queens; the talented chef Wafa whips up a traditional eggplant moussaka that’s very different from the layered Greek casserole of the same name. This thick, sweet and sour eggplant stew dotted with chickpeas and sweet spices is considerably easier and often naturally vegan than it’s Greek counterpart. Serve with Mujaddara (page XX) and a salad for a very hearty meal, or keep it simple with a side of pita or couscous; it also can be served at room temperature with pita as a saucy appetizer. Instead of frying the eggplant I prefer use less oil and roast the eggplant cubes to tender, melting softness.
2 pounds purple globe eggplant
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 pound red ripe tomatoes, cores and seeds removed and diced, or two 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juices
One 14 ounce can chickpeas (2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
½ cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Few twists freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Roast the eggplant first: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the stems from the eggplant and dice into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle the cubes with the sea salt and toss with the olive oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet (use 2 baking sheets if necessary), and roast for 26 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the eggplant are browned and the cubes are tender. Turn off the oven, remove the eggplant and set aside.
2. In a skillet over medium heat toast the coriander and cumin seeds for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Transfer the seeds to a clean coffee mill, add the ground cinnamon and grind to a fine powder.
3. In a 2 quart pot over medium heat, preheat the olive oil and stir in the garlic. Fry for 30 seconds, then add the onion and saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is softened and translucent. Stir in the ground spices, then add the diced tomatoes, water, chickpeas, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, and salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a rapid simmer for 1 minute, then reduce heat to medium low, partially cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the eggplant and simmer, partially cover, for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the stew should be very thick but saucy; taste and add pepper and more salt, and if desired a teaspoon more of pomegranate molasses. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Just before serving sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.