Meatless Monday – Moroccan Eggplant

eggplantWhen Tween was little we made up a song about eggplant:

Eggplant, eggplant
You’re kinda weird
Eggplant, eggplant
You’ll make me grow a beard!

Tween is a picky eater, and another song had helped to convince him that he, in fact, likes beans:

Beans, beans
The magical fruit
The more you eat
The more you toot!

(False, actually, because if you eat beans regularly your body develops the enzymes necessary to digest them without musical accompaniment).

And so we hoped a funny little ditty might help Tween to eat eggplant. The song made him laugh, but I’m not sure it had great effect on his willingness to consume eggplant. He’ll eat it, but not much.

Which is okay with me because, as I’ve said before, I’m a firm believer in the idea that seventeen bites over time can change your palate. Without realizing it, I think I experienced that truth with this recipe.

My mom made Moroccan Eggplant from time-to-time during my growing up years. It always smelled good – did I even know it contained eggplant? I’m not sure – but I wouldn’t take more than a bite. Especially because she usually served it along side veggies for dipping, and I prefer pita bread.

Yet with each bite, over time, I grew to like this recipe and eggplant in general. Now, if I see a beautiful eggplant in the grocery store, I might find myself craving it. Sure, I like eggplant grilled, roasted, on a loaded veggie sandwich, but this recipe is probably my favorite way to prepare eggplant. It’s a great appetizer for a party (farm to table, anyone?), and makes a delicious lunch sandwich stuffed in a pita pocket.

chopped eggplant and pepper + crushed garlic hop in the pot

chopped eggplant and pepper + crushed garlic hop in the pot

I'm always convinced that this time it's not going to melt down

I’m always convinced that this time it’s not going to cook down…

...and yet it does!

…and yet it does!

The hardest part is the patience to let flavors meld while it chills

The hardest part is the patience to let flavors meld while it chills

And now we enjoy!

And now we enjoy!

Moroccan Eggplant Dip
Makes 3 cups dip

1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ lb.)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 16-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne
2 tsp each sugar and salt
¼ c red wine vinegar
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro or 2 Tbsp dried cilantro leaves

Dice eggplant, discarding ends. In a large frying pan or pot, heat oil over medium-high heat; add eggplant, half the tomato sauce, garlic, green pepper, cumin, cayenne, sugar, salt, and vinegar. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 20 minutes; add tomato sauce as necessary if pan seems too dry. Uncover and boil mixture over high heat, stirring, until reduced to about 3 cups. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or until next day. Before serving, stir in cilantro.  Serve with pita or French bread or with raw veggies, such as zucchini, cucumber, or carrots.

 

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