Cumin Rice with Eggplant and Peppers

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1-1/2 cups brown rice
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium eggplant cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion cut into 1/4-inch squares
1 small green bell pepper cut into 1/2-inch squares
1 small red or yellow pepper or a mixture cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 medium tomatoes; peeled, seeded and cut into large pieces or 15 ounces  canned tomatoes, drained and cut into large pieces
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
3 cups water
1 cup dried provolone, optional or monterey jack or muenster cheese

Rinse the rice, cover it with water and set it aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Warm the oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and onion, salt them lightly, and rapidly sauté them to distribute the oil. Cook over medium heat until the eggplant is soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatoes, spices (including the pepper), parsley and more salt to taste. Stir carefully, combining everything well.

Drain the rice and add it to the pan along with 3 cups water . Turn up the heat to bring the water to a boil, then transfer everything to a baking dish, such as a large, earthenware gratin dish. Lay a piece of parchment over the top, cover with foil, and bake until the rice is done, about 45 minutes.

Toss the diced cheese, if you're using it, into the rice and serve.

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

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