My take on a classic Moroccan cooked eggplant salad dish called ‘zaalouk’ (similar to ratatouille). This plant-slant bowl is perfect for those looking to increase their veggie intake and is a make-ahead winner as the flavours will develop the longer it sits.
Cook’s Note: See bottom of recipe.
SERVES 4 - TOTAL TIME APPROX. 45 MINUTES
Use organic ingredients when possible
2 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 x Chinese/Japanese eggplants or 2 x regular eggplants* (2 lbs total), cut into bite-size pieces
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp harissa paste, plus more to taste (or sub another favorite hot sauce or chili garlic sauce)
1 tbsp smoked paprika or regular paprika
1 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
Sea salt, to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned (or sub with cooked lentils)
½ cup raisins (or sub with dried cranberries)
1 cup vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water (plus more if needed to thin the mixture)
Handful each fresh flat leaf parsley and mint, finely chopped (use combo of one or both herbs)
1 cup cracked freekeh (or sub with couscous, quinoa, or cauliflower rice for a grain-free version)
Optional toppings: handful of baby spinach, slivered almonds or pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese, chopped cucumber, sliced black or green olives, freshly-squeezed lemon
Heat oil in a large rimmed pan or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelized. Then add the eggplant, sweet potato, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Next, add the harissa paste, paprika, cumin, coriander, sea salt, and tomato paste. Stir for one minute more to release fragrances from the spices.
Add the cooked chickpeas, raisins, and broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplant and sweet potato are cooked and tender. Stir periodically so the mixture doesn’t stick, adding a splash of water/broth to loosen it if it becomes too thick.
While the eggplant mixture is simmering, cook the freekeh according to package directions. Set aside once done.
Taste and adjust flavours of the eggplant mixture as needed, adding more harissa paste, other spices, and/or salt to taste. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh chopped mint and/or flat leaf parsley.
To prepare each bowl, start with a base of freekeh, a ladleful of the eggplant-mixture, then top with desired combination of toppings. I like: baby spinach, slivered almonds, feta, black olives, and a squeeze of lemon.
Store completely cooled eggplant mixture leftovers in the refrigerator up to one week or in the freezer up to one month. Reheat on the stovetop, adding more water or broth as needed to loosen.
*NOTE: I find the long and thin Chinese or Japanese eggplant is perfect in this application because it has thin skin (saves you in peeling time) and less seeds (which equals less bitter) compared to the large Italian eggplant you tend to see more readily at the grocery store. If you can’t find Chinese or Japanese eggplant, you’ll have to peel the regular type, chop into cubes, toss in salt to coat, then drain in a colander for 30 minutes before you add it to the pan. This step is necessary to draw out any bitterness from the eggplant. In this case, remember to taste the mixture while it is cooking before adding any additional salt.