Coming at you with a super simple, quick, and minimal ingredient recipe that features one of my favourite summer crops. I know that eggplant preparation mystifies a lot of people, or maybe they’ve had a bad experience cooking it before. The bitterness or the unusual texture comes up a lot. I’m hoping that I can change some perceptions with this spicy and delicious braised harissa eggplant. “Braise” is a little generous since the finished stew only simmers for about 10 minutes, but hopefully you can forgive me ;)
Aside from the eggplant and showering of herbs, this is a pantry-friendly recipe. Crushed tomatoes and cooked chickpeas fill out this summery stew, and harissa-ish spices make it special. We build harissa flavor in the pot rather than making the paste separately and adding it in. I use a fresh chili, but you could certainly reach for dried if it means avoiding a trip to the store. I served mine over some cooked millet, but brown rice or even pasta would be great. A hunk of bread couldn’t hurt either.
In my slow going mission to reduce plastic in our house, I find myself cooking my own beans or tomatoes when I can, or sourcing store bought ones packed in glass when I need a bit of convenience. I love the jars that Jovial packs their tomatoes and cooked beans in—perfect for re-using, no BPA, and they don’t transfer any strange flavours to the product. I don’t mind the slight bump in cost with these because I value the commitment to a sustainable material and the commitment they have to paying fair wages for everyone in their supply chain.
I also just have to say that their tomatoes taste like pure sunshine. Jovial farmers use organic non-hybridized varieties of tomatoes grown in Tuscany that are packed in less than 24 hours. The flavor is so bright and pure.
While this braise is relatively quick, I personally prefer to salt the eggplant and let it sit for a full hour before cooking. You just toss the eggplant cubes in a good amount of salt and let the eggplant sit in a colander in the sink. If you’re pinched for time, you could get away with salting for 30 minutes.
From my experiences, the practice of salting reduces the bitterness, but most importantly it greatly improves the texture. This is especially true if you’re lightly frying the eggplant, which we do in this recipe. The eggplant flesh becomes silky in a way. Take that crisp-silky texture and mix it up with a spicy tomato-y base, some toothsome chickpeas, lemon, and herbs? Late summer perfection if you ask me. Hope you guys love this one!
BRAISED HARISSA EGGPLANT WITH CHICKPEAS
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus extra
- 3 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, plus extra if needed
- 1 medium cooking onion, small dice
- 1 small chili (such as cayenne or fresno), seeded and minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Remove the stem of the eggplant and chop into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a colander and toss them with the tablespoon of salt. Set aside for an hour in the sink.
- After an hour, rinse the eggplant (to remove excess salt) and thoroughly pat the cubes dry with paper towel or clean kitchen towels.
- Set up a dinner plate with a couple paper towels on top. In a wide, deep braiser-style pot or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. In batches, sear the eggplant until it’s golden brown on all sides and softened. As the eggplant finishes, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place it on the paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
- If necessary, add more oil to the pot and lower the heat to medium. Add the onions and hot pepper to the pot and sauté until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, caraway, and coriander to the pot and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, some salt and black pepper to taste, and then stir to coat the chickpeas in spices. Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock to the pot.
- Bring the braise to a boil and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the eggplant back into the pot and bring the braise up to a boil once more. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Serve the braised harissa eggplant hot over millet or rice (or any other starch of choice).
- You can get away with salting the eggplant for a minimum of 30 minutes, but I really recommend giving it the full hour (or up to 1 ½ hours). This looks like a lot of salt, but you’ll be rinsing a lot of it away before the cooking starts.
- I left the peel on my eggplant, but feel free to remove yours if you prefer it that way.
- I like a wide and deep braiser-style pot, but a regular soup pot or even a deep skillet will work for this recipe.
- This braise/stew is an excellent base for all kinds of small-dice summer vegetables like zucchini, green beans, or bell peppers. You could add up to 2 cups along with the onions. You might need an extra few splashes of vegetable stock, but otherwise the recipe should remain the same.
- I grind the caraway seeds in my spice grinder for this recipe. Not 100% sure if you can buy ground caraway in stores. You can also just leave them whole!
**This post was created in partnership with Jovial Foods. All opinions expressed are my own. Thanks for supporting!