Vegan Middle Eastern Stew with charred eggplant and chickpeas

My love affair with Middle Eastern food began over twenty years ago when I lived in Boston’s South End. The gentrification wave, spreading out from the Back Bay, hadn’t made it to my street yet. When I bought my unit, my realtor had congratulated me on buying a flat in the first building renovated in the area. “Getting in early before the boom is a great investment”, he promised. But there were metal bars on my windows, and they weren’t for decoration.

One of my closest friend’s at the time was Lebanese, and wanted to introduce me to the bevy of Lebanese restaurants at the end of my block. So one summer afternoon, we walked down my seedy (but soon to become hip) street into the first one. It was very narrow, with a handful of Formica tables and plastic chairs with metal legs scattered across a worn wooden floor, and a long way from the safe, predictably menus of Faneuil Hall. I started having second thoughts. An elderly woman with her hair pulled back into a tight bun, who may also have been the owner, and maybe the cook, greeted us in broken English. She handed me a menu filled with a cacophony of foods I’d never heard of. Melissa ordered for both of us.

“What exactly did you order?” I kept asking afterwards.

“You’ll love it. I know you will.” she reassured.

My anxiety rose. She was going to a lot of trouble. What if I hated it? I tried to concentrate on our conversation, probably something about work since that filled both of our lives at the time, but kept weighing escape tactics I could employ. Could I suddenly be taken ill? Where’s appendicitis or the flu when you really need it?

A variety of mezze (small dishes) soon arrived, and after the first tentative nibble on a miniscule piece of tabbouleh, I was in love. After that, that little neighborhood place became my favorite restaurant. I realized I really did like eggplant. I tasted hummus for the first time and was happy to make that my meal with some warm pita bread.

My love for Middle Eastern food grew over the years, and spread up to Turkey and down to Morocco. Someday I’ll visit all those countries, but for now I’m happy to visit them through their food.

This week’s theme for Sunday Supper is Middle Eastern food hosted by Amanda at MarocMama blog.  We’re defining Middle East as the countries of North Africa, the Gulf States, the Levant or region traditionally thought of as the Middle East, including Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Charred Eggplant and Chickpea Stew

     by Susan Pridmore

     Serves 8

       Prep Time: 45 minutes

       Cook Time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours


Ingredients 

  • 6 small globe eggplants (each measuring about 8” long by 4” wide at the base)
  • 4 medium red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (or follow the link to make your own!)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 6 medium tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons mint
  • 3 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Instructions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Puncture five of the eggplant in a few places with a knife and lay on the baking sheet. Broil for 1 hour or until completely blackened. They should feel hollow when their skin is pressed.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, slice off their tops and bottoms, and cut in half. Take each half and spread it out in your hands to reveal layers of seed strands. Remove as many of the seeds as easily possible and coarsely chop the meat.

Broil the red peppers on the same baking sheet until completely blackened. Turn them over a few times to blacken on all sides. Chop off their tops, peel and remove the seeds. Coarsely chop.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the chopped onion (it should sizzle when it hits the oil) and sauté until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Don’t move the onion around too much or it won’t brown. Add the minced garlic and cook another two minutes.

Add the cumin, paprika and ras el hanout and sauté another five minutes to toast the spices. It should be very fragrant. Add the harissa, cook another minute, and then add the red wine, water/broth, chopped tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and mint. Fold in the chopped roasted eggplant and red peppers. Gently simmer for ten minutes to begin to meld the flavors.

Using a blender, food processor, or my personal favorite – an immersion blender, purée the stew until thick and fairly smooth. There will be a rough texture to the purée, giving it a rustic look.

Cut the final eggplant into 2/3” dice. Heat the remaining two tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan and add the eggplant. Sauté until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. You may need to do this in batches and add a little olive oil between batches.

Add the sautéed eggplant and chickpeas to the stew, and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve hot with crusty bread and a light salad. Garnish with chopped mint or a drizzle of a good Balsamic vinegar.

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Here is an amazing list of fantastic Middle Eastern dishes our group made this week for you. It will take me all year to try them all!

Mezze {Appetizers}

Salata {Salads and Sides}

Main

Halwa {Desserts}

- See more at: http://marocmama.com/2013/11/quick-persian-rice-and-spiced-beef-for-a-middle-eastern-sundaysupper.html#sthash.6i6YfY09.dpufJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here ? Sunday Supper Movement.

 

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32 Responses to “Charred Eggplant and Chickpea Stew: #SundaySupper” Subscribe

  1. Amanda @ MarocMama November 3, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    This looks absolutely wonderful! I’m glad you had a good first experience with Middle Eastern food – it can make all the difference!

  2. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes November 3, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    The words charred and eggplant make me immediately hungry! I don’t know much about cooking middle eastern food but I sure love to eat it!
    Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes recently posted..Persian Jeweled Rice #SundaySupperMy Profile

  3. Liz November 3, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    I loved reading about your introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine…I have those same stories of Asian fare from living in Vancouver in high school. Your stew looks phenomenal!
    Liz recently posted..Ghraybeh or Lebanese Shortbread Cookies #SundaySupperMy Profile

  4. Shaina November 3, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    What a great way to be introduced to such an amazing cuisine. I’m glad you ended up liking it :) This stew sounds amazing. I’m a huge fan of eggplant, especially when broiled (as you can see in my recipe for sunday supper, too) haha

  5. apuginthekitchen November 3, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    I also have a real love affair with Middle Eastern food, this sounds absolutely delicious. I LOVE charred eggplant your method is exactly how I do it also, I love them also in Baba Ganoush. I have to try this stew!
    apuginthekitchen recently posted..Concord Grape Refrigerator JamMy Profile

  6. Constance @FoodieArmyWife November 3, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    That looks so rich and delicious!

  7. angela@spinachtiger November 3, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    A beautiful, wintery, comforting dish. I love a meal in one bowl.
    angela@spinachtiger recently posted..A Year of Cooking Italy with Marcella HazanMy Profile

  8. Courtney @ Neighborfood November 3, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    This stew looks fabulous. So comforting and flavorful. I totally understand the “hip but seedy” neighborhood. We’re living in one now. :)

  9. Marie@citronlimette November 3, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    This looks absolutely fantastic. What a beautiful dish!

  10. Lynda - TasteFood November 3, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    I love Middle Eastern cuisine. This sounds divine.
    Lynda – TasteFood recently posted..Legends of Europe: Roasted Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto di Parma and ArugulaMy Profile

  11. Family Foodie November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    This actually reminded me of the Portuguese Bean Soup… now I can’t wait to try this Middle Eastern version!

  12. Shannon R November 3, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    This looks so good! Perfect comfort food.
    Shannon R recently posted..Vegan Ghraybeh (Middle Eastern Shortbread Cookies) Recipe #SundaySupperMy Profile

  13. Renee November 3, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    I think this stew could change my opinion of eggplant too (I’ve never been a fan). The chickpeas and spices must give it such a nice texture and flavor.

  14. Hezzi-D November 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    It’s the perfect time of year for a hearty stew like this one! The spices in it sound fabulous!

  15. The Ninja Baker November 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    You are such a great storyteller, Susan. Boston holds a special place in my heart because I’d visit every summer to see my mom. (She was the tennis pro at the Cambridge Tennis Club.) My hat is off to you for braving the South End. At any rate, love your story and your yummy recipe!

  16. Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom) November 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    I remember when the South End was still sketchy. During grad school we visited various sites in the neighborhood for architecture/urban dev. projects. This restaurant that you mention sounds vaguely familiar.

    Regardless, this stew sounds incredible! So homey and comforting! Thanks for sharing…
    Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom) recently posted..Shakshuka for Two #SundaySupperMy Profile

  17. Julie @ Texan New Yorker November 4, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    What a great story! I can definitely relate, though my similar experiences were mostly at dinner parties. :)

    This dish looks wonderful.
    Julie @ Texan New Yorker recently posted..Chicken Shawarma #SundaySupperMy Profile

  18. Erika November 4, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Oh YUM. These getting-darker wintery days just call for warm, thick stews and this looks fantastic. I love Middle Eastern food too but I haven’t really mastered cooking any of the food, sadly. Speaking of eggplant, have you ever tried making Asian stir-fried eggplant? That’s one of my favorite dishes to order at Thai places and I’m a bit scared to try it at home because I think it uses a lot of oil!
    Erika recently posted..Broken Glass Cupcakes + Happy Halloween!My Profile

  19. Jane's Adventures in Dinner November 4, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Harissa and eggplant! You are ticking all of my flavour boxes.

  20. Norma Chang November 5, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    I am unfamiliar with Lebanese cooking so am learning through your post. Your eggplant stew sounds delightful. If globe eggplant is unavailable can one substitute other varieties?
    Norma Chang recently posted..Harvest Monday, November 4, 2013 + Ginger Update + Beef, Root Veggies & Cabbage SoupMy Profile

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian November 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      Thanks so much Norma! Yes, you can definitely substitute other varieties of eggplant. Anything I think except maybe Asian and Japanese eggplant since they can be a little sweeter. They may be fine too; I just haven’t tried them.
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Charred Eggplant and Chickpea Stew: SundaySupperMy Profile

  21. Lane @ Supper for a Steal November 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Oh my gosh, this looks to die for! I love a thick and chunky stew, especially with eggplant and chickpeas

  22. sippitysup November 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Charming story and I can relate in so many ways. Including the bars on the window. GREG

  23. mjskit November 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    I love Middle Eastern food but I don’t think I’ve ever had Lebanese. This looks like a very healthy, delicious and hearty bowl of goodness. Lots of great flavors. thanks for introducing this cuisine!
    mjskit recently posted..Atole – My Cold Weather SmoothieMy Profile

  24. Rita November 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Yummm! My kind of food Susan. What is globe eggplant vs others? I know the long :Japanese” type, but globe… I’ve not seen that terminology at my farmers market (I don’t think…)

  25. Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips November 7, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    This soup sounds fantastic!
    Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips recently posted..Creamy Balsamic Greek Yogurt Vinaigrette Salad DressingMy Profile

  26. Cass @foodmyfriend November 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    This is fantastic. Good to freeze as well?

  27. Sarah | Curious Cuisiniere November 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    This sounds amazing! And I love the story!
    Sarah | Curious Cuisiniere recently posted..Beer and Broccoli Cheddar Soup {Lightened Up}My Profile

  28. Julia November 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    This looks like a hearty, healthy recipe! I love using chickpeas in stew! Yum.

  29. Peter @Feed Your Soul Too December 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    I was looking for recipes from the Middle East and came across yours. I knew that finding vegetarian ideas would be easy. This looks great. I featured it on my Friday Five – Middle Eastern addition over @Feed Your Soul Too – http://www.feedyoursoul2.com/2013/12/friday-five-middle-eastern-addition-2.html

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