Continuing along with our choice vegetable of posts pasts, here is a recipe for a simple eggplant stew, or tabeekh bitinjan.
Eggplants feature prominently in Gazan cuisine, whether stuffed, fried, sauteed into vegetarian one-pot meals such as Rumaniyya, or stewed with beef and tomato sauce as in this recipe. Personally, I am always looking for new ways to cook eggplants, so I was delighted to discover this oft-overlooked stew. As with most eggplant recipes we will feature, you have a choice of frying or roasting these humble summer vegetables. We usually opt to oven roast with olive oil for optimal flavor and minimum greasiness, but to each his own.
Eggplant Stew with chickpease (Tabeekh Bitinjan)
2 lbs eggplants, cut into 2 inch cubes or half-circles, depending on variety (I used the thin seedless Japanese variety, but any variety will do)
1 lb lean stew beef
1 onion, chopped (roughly 1 cup)
5 T. light olive oil, divided
Assorted whole spices: 3 pieces allspice berries, 1 clove, 4 black pepper berries, 4 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf
Water as needed (8-10 cups or so)
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 6 oz can tomato paste
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
If using larger eggplants, soak in a heavily salted water bath for 15 minutes, or sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander for 20 minutes until eggplants begin to sweat. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fry in hot vegetable oil and drain well, or drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven on cookie sheets until browned from bottom, about 30 minutes. Flip pieces over to brown other side or switch your oven to broil for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse meat and pat dry. Heat 3 T. olive oil in a non-stick pan and brown meat. Add onions and sautee together until golden. Fill pot with enough water to cover submerge meat. Bring to a boil, skimming any froth that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium low. Add whole spices, tied in a piece of gauze or disposable tea filter if desired, and cover for 1 1/2 hours until meat is fork tender.
Strain meat, making sure to reserve broth. Discard whole spices.
Return meat and broth to a clean pot and add tomato paste and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Gently stir in fried or roasted eggplants and let simmer. Meanwhile, make the tiqlaya: Mash garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a small frying pan and add mashed garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds to a minute. Add garlic to eggplant stew, de-glazing any leftover garlic scrapings with a little of the tomato stew.
Garnish with chopped parsley or basil, if desired. Serve with bread or white rice.