I’m not sure that “stew” is the best or most accurate term for this dish. It’s thick with very little liquid, so you can’t really sop it up with bread. And, although it’s made with eggplant, onion, and tomatoes, it’s definitely not a ratatouille. Whatever it is, I’m calling it a stew because the vegetables are in fact stewed together until nearly all the liquid has cooked off.
My recent trip to Istanbul, where eggplant is abundant, inspired this dish. When dining out in the city (my husband and I), most of our meals consisted of some quantity of eggplant and tomatoes, as it was offered on pretty much every mezze menu. As you can imagine, I was in vegetarian heaven.
Most of the eggplant dishes were served cooked in olive oil, chilled or at room temperature. It almost surprised me that such simple food could be so satisfying and memorable- the sweet eggplant dripping with nutty, fruity oil. I also savored how such simple ingredients –like the eggplant, onions, fennel, and tomatoes in this dish- came together in a memorable, even exotic, way. I’ll always think of Istanbul when making this dish.
1 large, dark purple eggplant; peeled, cubed, salted and rinsed.
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup finely chopped fennel
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence
Directions: On medium high heat cook olive oil, garlic and onions in a pot until fragrant. Add fennel and stir for another minute or two.
Next, add the eggplant and stir until it starts to wilt a bit. (Be sure to salt the eggplant before cooking. To do this, put chopped eggplant in a colander and coat with a good bit of salt. The salt will pull out the bitter juices. Let drain for at least 20 min. Then, rinse and squeeze or pat dry with a towel.)
Then add the tomatoes and the dried herbs.
Allow to stew until there’s very little water left in the pot and the mixture is quite thick.
Serve the stew with rice or fish or bread.
I really enjoyed it on a piece of baked trout.
But you could definitely serve it as a stand alone side dish to complement the main course. It passes beautifully around a family table.
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