Stewing Over Eggplant

Purple is my favorite color and I love eggplant.

The hostess of our recent Les Dames d'Escoffier International monthly meeting did not know either of these factoids, but she did know that I only eat pork. When she was planning the Mediterranean feast of lamb stew and couscous, she was thoughtful enough to prepare a vegetarian entree for me--and for any other "difficult" or vegetable loving members of our chapter.

I had two servings of this remarkable and richly flavored eggplant stew that night and, honestly, ever since then I have been thinking about recreating the dish at home. Or at least something like it.

Though it may not feel like fall in South Texas, it's almost November and the farmers' fall harvests are just beginning to make their way to the market. Mustard and collard greens, spinach, radishes, Swiss chard, green beans and eggplant are some of my favorite fall vegetables.
Since I picked up a few eggplants last week, I decided to celebrate Meatless Monday by making this stewed eggplant and tomatoes. Savory, easy to make and super simple, all you need are a few fabulously fresh and preferably locally grown eggplant, an onion, a few cloves of garlic and a can of whole peeled tomatoes to whip up this vegetarian stew that will only get better with time.

Serve over polenta or couscous or brown rice and sink your teeth into fall. 

Buen provecho!
Stewed Eggplant and Tomatoes
The Cowgirl Gourmet followed this recipe found on Cafe Johnsonia's blog who retrieved this recipe from Mark Bittman's 2005 cookbook The Best Recipes in the World

Print recipe

This sturdy and hearty stew is something that both vegetarians and carnivores will enjoy. Serve over creamy polenta or another grain of choice along with a salad and dive in to a tasty and healthy fall dish. If meat is required at your dinner table, grilled Italian sausage would pair quite well.

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole or diced
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, diced
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves
Parmesan cheese, optional garnish

In a large skillet, heat over medium high and then add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and season with a little salt, stirring frequently until the onion turns slightly golden and softens, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
In goes the diced eggplant and season again with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, stirring often, cook until the eggplant starts to turn golden.
Then add the tomatoes, crushing each tomato with your hand and removing the hard nub at the top of the tomato, if needed. Stir well and season again with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the sauce begins to thicken and the flavors have started to meld, about 10-15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the flavors to marry a bit more as it cools on the cooktop. Taste the stew and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Just before serving, check and see if the stew needs to cook a little more. My sauce was thick and the eggplant still a little too al dente, so I added some water (a cup) and let it continue to cook so the eggplant became somewhat soft but was no longer al dente. Then stir in freshly chopped or torn basil leaves, about 5-7 leaves. Stir well to combine and let it cook another few minutes so it permeates the stew.
Heat thoroughly and when ready to serve, spoon polenta, couscous or brown rice onto a plate or bowl and top with the stew. Place a whole basil leaf (or two or three) on the top, a sprinkle of Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.

If using, garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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