Eggplant, Potato, and Spinach with Aromatic Herbs

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1 pound potatoes, preferable yukon gold
1 large eggplant
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white part and 1 inch of greens, washed, thinly slice
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 scallions, white part and 1 inch of greens, thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup minced fresh basil or 2 tablespoons, crumbled dried basil
1/4 cup minced fresh dill or 1 tablespoon, crumbled dried dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon white wine or wine vinegar
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or 10 ounces frozen, thawed, squeezed dry
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the potatoes until tender, about 50 minutes, or bake in the microwave and set aside to cool.

Heat the broiler.

Place the eggplant under the broiler, and broil until the skin buckles and chars, about 7 minutes. Turn to broil the other side, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let it cool. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut off the stem end, and peel away the skin. Discard as many seeds as you can without tossing away the flesh. Chop the pulp and set it aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the leek, onion, scallions, mint, cilantro, chives, basil, dill, and oregano, and sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are so tender they seem close to melting, about 20 minutes. Add the wine or vinegar, raise the heat to medium-high, and stir until the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the fresh spinach, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, until the leaves have turned bright green, about 2 minutes. If using frozen spinach, stir until it is evenly incorporated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Add the eggplant pulp, and stir well.

Slice the potatoes, cut the slices in half, and stir them into the skillet. Turn off the heat and add them slowly (no more than a tablespoon at a time to start, gradually increasing the amount to 14 cup) to the skillet, allowing the temperature to adjust so the mixture won't curdle. Stir in the chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, heat carefully over low heat, stirring until just warmed through. However, if you're as timid as I am about heating dishes that may curdle, you'll be glad to know that this dish is delicious at room temperature, and wonderful chilled.

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