Hearty Moroccan chickpea stew with charred eggplant and roasted red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and Moroccan spices.Jump to Recipe
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, or 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 acute 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 minuscule 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, learned that I also loved chickpeas, and could have made that my entire meal with some warm pita bread. Except that I loved everything my friend had ordered.
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 visit them through their food.
Other Stews with Chickpeas
Chickpea curries are a kind of stew in my mind, and two of them that I love are these:
This sweet potato and chickpea curry with coconut milk, and packed with umami from sun-dried tomatoes and a small glug of balsamic vinegar is a huge favorite.
And if you've never tried black chickpeas, I highly recommend this Chana Masala with Black Chickpeas.
Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes
- Immersion blender (stick blender)
- 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 chopped yellow onions
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
- 1 tablespoon harissa or make your own!
- ¼ cup red wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 6 medium tomatoes chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons mint
- 2 cans chickpeas or cook your own chickpeas from dried
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Puncture all of the eggplant in a few places with a knife and lay on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until they feel hollow when you press their skin.
- 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 heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion (it should sizzle when it hits the oil) and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 - 15 minutes. Don’t move the onion around too much or it won’t brown. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute.
- Add the cumin, paprika, ras el hanout and harissa. Sauté another few minutes to toast the spices. It should be very fragrant. Add the red wine, 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 or my personal favorite – a stick blender, purée the stew until thick and fairly smooth. There will be a rough texture to the purée, giving it a rustic look.
- Add the chickpeas to the stew, and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve hot with crusty bread and a light salad. Garnish with chopped mint or a drizzle of a good Balsamic vinegar.
Amanda @ MarocMama
This looks absolutely wonderful! I'm glad you had a good first experience with Middle Eastern food - it can make all the difference!
Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes
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!
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!
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
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!
That looks so rich and delicious!
A beautiful, wintery, comforting dish. I love a meal in one bowl.
Courtney @ Neighborfood
This stew looks fabulous. So comforting and flavorful. I totally understand the "hip but seedy" neighborhood. We're living in one now. 🙂
This looks absolutely fantastic. What a beautiful dish!
Lynda - TasteFood
I love Middle Eastern cuisine. This sounds divine.
This actually reminded me of the Portuguese Bean Soup... now I can't wait to try this Middle Eastern version!
This looks so good! Perfect comfort food.
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.
It's the perfect time of year for a hearty stew like this one! The spices in it sound fabulous!
The Ninja Baker
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!
Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom)
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...
Julie @ Texan New Yorker
What a great story! I can definitely relate, though my similar experiences were mostly at dinner parties. 🙂
This dish looks wonderful.
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!
Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Harissa and eggplant! You are ticking all of my flavour boxes.
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?
The Wimpy Vegetarian
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.
Lane @ Supper for a Steal
Oh my gosh, this looks to die for! I love a thick and chunky stew, especially with eggplant and chickpeas
Charming story and I can relate in so many ways. Including the bars on the window. GREG
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!
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...)
Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips
This soup sounds fantastic!
This is fantastic. Good to freeze as well?
The Wimpy Vegetarian
I haven't tried freezing it, Cass, but I can't imagine why it wouldn't freeze well. If you try it, let me know! And if I do, I'll let you know too 🙂
Sarah | Curious Cuisiniere
This sounds amazing! And I love the story!
This looks like a hearty, healthy recipe! I love using chickpeas in stew! Yum.
Peter @Feed Your Soul Too
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
The Wimpy Vegetarian
Thanks so much Peter! I'm on my way over to check out your post!!