Monday, August 9, 2010

Eggplant Casserole or Lebanese Moussaka

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Raw Eggplants
I never was a big fan of eggplants until recent years.  For some time, I couldn't shake the memory of being forced to eat some awful eggplant dish at boarding school.  We weren't allowed to leave the table until our plate was finished, so my brother and I would pretend to eat it and stuff the food in our uniform pocket just to get out of the dining hall.  I can only imagine how hard it was to clean those stains!   
Eggplant Casserole Quattro
Raw Eggplant Plate
Today, I can't pass up these vibrant looking fruits flooding the market.  I love the colors, shapes and varieties.  And they're so versatile in cooking.  I made this light lunch inspired by a traditional dish called "Moussaka" meaning "chilled" in Arabic.  Moussaka is a widespread dish all around the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek version is probably the most known. You can find a delicious recipe for that at Kalofagas.
In Lebanon, Moussaka is made like a stew and eaten at room temperature or cold.  It's a popular rustic summer dish made all across Lebanon and each area incorporates into it their own flavors.  I made mine the way that my mother and her mother and her mother made it, with fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, a touch of homemade tomato paste (made last week) and a beautiful collection of eggplants.  I used these varieties: Fairytale, Gretel Hybrid, Sweet African Orange, and Little Fingers.  It will work with any kind, so pick your favorites.

Eggplant Casserole

Eggplant Casserole (Lebanese Moussaka)
2 lbs eggplants, cut in similar size
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked - see below (or 1 can no salt chickpeas)
1 1/2 water (use the chickpea water)
1 large Vidalia onion, cut in half moon slices
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, scant
2 tbsp tomato paste
3-4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
5-6 leaves sweet basil, chiffonade
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp sea salt (for salting eggplant)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chickpeas Preparation
Soak dried chickpeas in water to cover for 24 hours. Change water once half way through.  Drain chickpeas (save liquid) and place in a medium pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Let cook for about 45 minutes or until tender. Set aside

Stew Preparation
Trim and cut eggplant to similar size.  Sprinkle with salt and rub through.  Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towel.  Slice garlic and onion and begin sauteeing in a large pot with olive oil on medium heat.  Once softened, add eggplants and sautée briefly for a few minutes.  Add fresh diced tomatoes with salt and pepper (adjust to taste). Sautée for another 5 minutes.  Dilute the tomato paste in the chickpea water (measure 1 1/2 cups), then add to the pot and add chickpeas.  Cover pot and simmer for approx. 40 minutes.  Finish with fresh herbs.

4 comments:

  1. These are gorgeous pictures and I love the moussaka stew, very summery.

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  2. Dina Kanawati Sakr1:25 PM, August 11, 2010

    Looks very appetizing as usual. I enjoy reading your recipes and learning variations to dishes that I know. Adds some spice (pun intended) to cooking.

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  3. Yummy....I am going to try it this weekend. It sounds like a cold dish.

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