Eggplant with Brown Cumin Rice

1 medium-sized eggplant, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
vegetable oil to coat dish
2 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chiles (or to taste)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium-sized sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 tablespoon cumin
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups crumbled imported feta cheese (6 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Kefalograviera or Kasseri cheese (2 ounces)

Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sea salt and let drain 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water to remove the salt and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly coat a 2-1/2-quart ovenproof casserole dish with vegetable oil and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the drained eggplant, tossing so it is well coated with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant becomes soft and begins to brown (10 - 12minutes). Add the salt, chiles, bell pepper, and onion. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables become very soft (about 10 minutes).

Stir in the tomatoes, rice, cumin, Vegetable Stock, and water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta and Kefalograviera cheese.

Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish. Cover tightly and bake until the rice has absorbed the liquid (about 45 minutes). Fluff the rice with a fork and serve very hot.

Yield: 4 servings

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