Eggplant Moussaka

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In the Mediterranean there are endless versions of moussaka, but the basic principle is layered vegetables alternating with layers of minced meat, tomato sauce and bechamel sauce. Typically the vegetables, be it potatoes or eggplants, are fried and then layered accordingly.

This light and and dairy moussaka is not only vegetarian, but not as heavy and fattening as the classic Greek moussaka. I used eggplants for this casserole and instead of breading and frying it, I brushed it lightly with olive oil and then broiled it. I personally do not like fried eggplants,  because it tends to be a greasy with a pool of oil at the bottom of the dish.

To create the substance of meat in this vegetarian moussaka, I used feta cheese and cottage cheese which gives a rich and filling texture to the layers of eggplants.

In the summer time, serve this dish straight from the oven dish with a fresh leafy salad for a satisfying meal on those long summer evenings. In cooler months, try serving it with homemade potato wedges cooked with chili flakes and olive oil for a filling plate of comfort food.

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Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplants, unpeeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil, for basting

Cheese Filling
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces cottage cheese
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup Gluten Free cereal, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5 tomatoes, diced
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2–3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, scant
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Directions
  1. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and let stand ½ hour. Set your oven to broil. Pat dry with a paper towel, baste with olive oil on both sides. You can use a brush to baste. Lightly salt the eggplants and place on tray for the oven. Grill on both sides until golden, about 7 minutes on each side. Make sure the eggplants do not burn.
  2. To prepare filling: mix together cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, feta cheese, beaten egg, gluten free cereal, garlic, and parsley.
  3. To prepare tomato sauce: sauté sliced onion in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients for sauce and bring to boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until tomatoes have emulsified.
  4. Put a layer of eggplant slices in a greased casserole dish. Place a tablespoonful of filling on each slice and cover with a second slice. Pour tomato sauce over eggplant slices. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 20 minutes.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Chinese Eggplant Szechwan Style

For me, food is about four cornerstones – life,  culture, connection, and alchemy that together form a type of food practice. Practice meaning that its something I try to engage in consciously, fully embodying in all aspects of its preparation – purchasing, washing, chopping and cooking.  These four practices approach cooking food in a mindful healthful manner all the time. 


Szechwanese cuisine incorporates their own four practices in honor of the “Four circuits of rivers” which was named after the division of the existing circuit, into four during the Northern Song Dynasty between 960 and 1279. Circuits were political divisions in China, based on geography. 


As an off shoot to the “Four Circuits River” Szechwan cuisine has amalgamated the four circuits into their signature cuisine, described in four words as: spicy, hot, fresh and fragrant. I think it’s quite compelling how the Sichuanese revered their Four Great Traditions, which is known as “one dish, one shape, hundreds of dishes, hundreds of tastes”, as the saying goes, to describe its acclaimed diversity. 

Chinese Eggplant

In the same way that Szechwan cooking incorporated their divisions into a one unifying cuisine, I, too have integrated the culinary sensibilities of Szechwanese cooking into my own cooking repertoire. The act of mindful eating, incorporates tastes, looks, touch and smells into one unifying dish. 


This popular Szechuan dish is made with Chinese eggplant, which is thinner and longer than the short and thicker eggplant that is commonly available in supermarkets. With an aromatic sauce made with chilies, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ground pepper, this dish has proven to be irresistible. Even though it’s known by it’s namesake “Fish Fragrant Eggplant,” I can tell you that it certainly does not taste like fish, but rather, the name refers to the method of preparation usually associated with fish in Sichuan cuisine that results in hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors all co-mingling on the plate.

Rather than deep-frying, like many other recipes call for, I like to use just a bit of oil and stir-fry until the outsides are golden brown. This seems to result in a less oily, but still flavorful, eggplant dish that has a meaty chew.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 small Chinese Eggplants
1 teaspoon salt
3 dried red chilies
Grapeseed oil, for frying
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped

4 scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths and separating the white part

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

DIRECTIONS
  1. Trim the eggplant and cut into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide by 3 inches. Place the eggplant strips in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to drain the bitterness from the eggplant. Then rinse under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Meanwhile soak the chilies in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain, then cut each chile into four pieces, discarding the seeds.
  3. Pour a thin layer of oil into the skillet under medium high heat. Once sizzling, saute the eggplant until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. 
  4. With the left over oil in the skillet, add the garlic, ginger and white scallion parts.
  5. Saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant, and then add the eggplant and toss the rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Stir fry for 2 minutes to blend in all flavors. Drizzle the sesame oil and green scallion parts. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.

Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

Baingan Bartha is a vegetarian dish from Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is a Bhurta (minced vegetables) made from eggplant (Baigan), which is grilled on direct fire to impart a smoky flavor to the flesh of the eggplant and then cooked with spices and vegetables. The eggplant is then mashed and seasoned with fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) for a clean flavor. To bring up the heat, I tempered the mustard seeds and then fried up some fresh chile.   Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, if you want to cool your palette and serve with a side of Basmati brown rice.

Jump over Pakistan into Afghanistan, and you will find a variation of this eggplant curry, called bonjan salad. It too, is grilled eggplant that is softened to a point where the pulp just melts off and is then mashed with fresh garlic. This is usually eaten at room temperature with flat Afghan bread as an appetizer, along with main dishes.
I love the way food- in particular, eggplant has traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent and slowly morphed its way into varying recipes. If you think about it, we all share a connection to one another. Sometimes, just as food appears so different, the core is the same- the foundation of Baingan Bartha is the same a the Bonjon. As we move along through life, and meet people we become the sum of all parts- forgetting that we all share a connection to one another- a foundation. Our influences, adorn us- make us special and individuate us, but foods keep us connected to the superluminal connectedness of all things that are beyond our immediate perception.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
4 ounces button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red Chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Brush the skin of both the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the oil and prick with a fork. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and saute the mustard seeds for 2 minutes, until they begin to pop. Take care not to splash the oil.
  3. Add the scallions, mushrooms, crushed garlic and chopped chili and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh briefly with a fork.
  5. Add the mashed eggplant and chopped cilantro to the saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Vegetarian Moussaka

In the Mediterranean there are endless versions of moussaka, but the basic principle is layered vegetables alternating with layers of minced meat, tomato sauce and bechamel sauce. Typically the vegetables, be it potatoes or eggplants, are fried and then layered accordingly.

Saute onions for tomato sauce



This light and and dairy moussaka is not only vegetarian, but not as heavy and fattening as the classic Greek moussaka. I used eggplants for this casserole and instead of breading and frying it, I brushed it lightly with olive oil and then broiled it. I personally do not like fried eggplants,  because it tends to be a greasy with a pool of oil at the bottom of the dish.


To create the substance of meat in this vegetarian moussaka, I used feta cheese and cottage cheese which gives a rich and filling texture to the layers of eggplants.

Salt eggplant, pat dry, and then gill in broiler



In the summer time, serve this dish straight from the oven dish with a fresh leafy salad for a satisfying meal on those long summer evenings. In cooler months, try serving it with homemade potato wedges cooked with chilli flakes and olive oil for a filling plate of comfort food.

Serves 8


INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplants, unpeeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil, for basting
Cheese Filling
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces cottage cheese
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup Gluten Free cereal, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5 tomatoes, diced
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2–3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, scant
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Directions
  1. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and let stand ½ hour. Set your oven to broil. Pat dry with a paper towel, baste with olive oil on both sides. You can use a brush to baste. Lightly salt the eggplants and place on tray for the oven. Grill on both sides until golden, about 7 minutes on each side. Make sure the eggplants do not burn.
  2. To prepare filling: mix together cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, feta cheese, beaten egg, gluten free cereal, garlic, and parsley. 
  3. To prepare tomato sauce: sauté sliced onion in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients for sauce and bring to boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until tomatoes have emulsified.
  4. Put a layer of eggplant slices in a greased casserole dish. Place a tablespoonful of filling on each slice and cover with a second slice. Pour tomato sauce over eggplant slices. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 20 minutes.

Baked Eggplant with Mint ~ Turkish Imam Biyaldi

 
The eggplant is native to the region along the Silk Route…. India, Pakistan, and Nepal which reaches all the way to Turkey. I am sure you have seen several varieties of eggplants, long and skinny, purple and big, pink and white and the one I will be cooking today is a small oblong one perfect for stuffing. That is the one on the top middle in the photo.
The actual name for this dish is Imam Bayaldi, which is a Turkish eggplant dish stuffed with tomatoes, onions and garlic. Turkish cuisine is a polyglot of many different cultures… Persian, Central Asian, Mediterranean and Balkan. Along the Mediterranean is where you will find dishes abundant in vegetables, garlic and olive oil. What I love about Mediterranean cooking is that the ingredients are so simple to the staple Mediterranean diet and yet so flavorful. The addition of mint to this dish is an unexpected freshness that creates a symphony of delightful surprise.
Serves 6
Ingredients
6 Italian eggplants, peeled with stems intact
Filling:
1 cup olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
Directions
  1.  Make a slit, lengthwise, in each eggplant without opening the ends. Soak the eggplants in a container of cold water with 2 tablespoons salt for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, pat dry and set aside.
    Slit the eggplant
    Salt the eggplant in a colander
  2.  In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat and slightly brown the eggplants on both sides.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Arrange the eggplants side by side on an oiled baking dish.
  5. In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add the mint, salt, sugar, ground cumin and tomatoes for the filling and sauté for another minute longer. Remove from heat.
  6. Open up the slits in the eggplants with your hands and stuff each eggplant with the onion mixture. Drizzle the remaining oil and ¼ cup water over them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until soft.

Sautéed Vegetables & Chickpeas in Balsamic Stew (Vegan, Gluten Free)


This dish has a Mediterranean flair with the heavy hand of olive oil and vegetables tossed with chickpeas and lentils in a balsamic vinaigrette. 

A simple dish to prepare that just requires cutting and tossing for a tangy meal. What’s more is that the eggplant and mushrooms add a meaty texture to the meal, so is perfectly suited for your carnivorous guests making it a hearty meal. This dish  yields a lot of servings, so if you have a big crowd, this is the dish to prepare. As a side dish, you can serve it with warm Tuscan bread on a salad plate or can even be served as a light lunch. This recipe is an adaption of Suzie Fishbein’s Kosher By Design: Short on Time.


A Note about the Beans:

If you don’t have a can of lentil you can always use 1 cup dried lentils in 3 cups of water in already boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Drain and use.

If you don’t have a can of chickpeas, prepare ¾ cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight or boil them for an hour for shortcut version. Remove outer layer; drain and rinse.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients


½ cup olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 eggplant, unpeeled and cubed

1 medium yellow squash, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 zucchini, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

3 portabella mushroom caps, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 (15 ounce) can lentils, washed and drained

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, washed and drained

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika

Directions
                       1      Soak the eggplants in a container of cold water with 2 tablespoons salt for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, pat dry and set aside.

                      2      In large saucepot, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté onion until it turns into a pinkish hue.

                      3      Add all ingredients; eggplant, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, red pepper, lentils, and chickpeas. Stir, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

                      4      Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika; stirring to combine with all the ingredients. Check for doneness if vegetables are tender, if not then cook simmered for another 10 minutes.

Persian Eggplant Stew (Gluten Free, Vegan)



The traditional name for this dish is Eggplant Khoresh, which is a stewed type of sauce typically prepared with lamb and yellow split peas. There are many variations of Khoresh depending on the province and what is available there. It is not uncommon for the Khoresh to be vegetarian. In some later posts, I will leave recipes for other types of Khoresh.

I learned to make this dish from my mother, who is not Persian, but grew up in Afghanistan, bordering Iran. In my mothers’ usual fashion, she has morphed this dish into a variation of the original, adding garlic and curry. Persians always eat their Khoresh over steamed basmati rice.

Serves 4
 
Ingredients
1 large eggplant, peeled, cubed and salted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 round tomatoes, diced
1 ½  tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (for garnish)
Directions
                        1      In a colander, sprinkle 1-tablespoon salt on the eggplant to remove bitterness. Let stand for half an hour, then strain and pat dry with paper towel.
                        2      Heat oil, in a large saucepot under a medium high flame. Add onion and sauté until translucent; 7 to 8 minutes. Then mix in garlic and stir for a few more minutes until garlic become fragarant. Make sure the mixture does not burn.
                        3      Add eggplant with ½ teaspoon salt and stir until eggplant softens. This should take about 10 minutes.
                       4      Stir in the tomatoes and season with turmeric, curry powder, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Combine seasonings well with the mixture.  Lower heat, and cover simmered for 45 minutes.
                       5      Serve over basmati rice garnished with cilantro.