Eggplant Ragout with Tomatoes, Peppers and Chickpeas

1-1/2 pounds eggplant, preferably plump round fruits
2 tablespoons olive oil; more for brushing the eggplant
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large bell pepper, red or yellow, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 plump cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
generous pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-1/4 cups water
5 plum tomatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded
15-ounce can chickpeas (preferably organic), rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt; more to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the broiler. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 3/4-inch rounds and brush both sides with olive oil. Broil until light gold on each side, about 2 min. per side. Let cool and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a medium Dutch oven, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; sauté until the onion is lightly browned, 12 to 15 min. During the last few minutes of browning, add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Stir in 1/4 cup of the water and boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the juices from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, eggplant, chickpeas, remaining 1 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until the vegetables are quite tender, about 25 min., stirring once or twice. Stir in the parsley, adjust the seasonings, and serve.

Broiling the eggplant first helps it keep its shape in the stew.

Serves four to six.

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