Cook Eggplant Zalouk for Comfort, Taste & Health

I have a love-hate relationship with eggplant. Really, it’s mostly love, but I may be a bit snobby about how it should be prepared, and this can lead to some dissatisfying eggplant experiences. If it’s not cooked thoroughly enough, it’s spongy. If it’s cooked in too much oil, it’s mushy. And if you peel it, as so many people I know prefer because for some reason the skin irks them, it just looks like a soft brown blob. That soft brown blob, to me, is not eggplant. Eggplant is darkly vibrant, a soft-textured vegetable that doesn’t disintegrate in your mouth; it’s not bursting with flavor but it does have a distinct taste; it adds heartiness to stews and casseroles without being heavy. Like I said, I do really love eggplant. You just have to do it justice when you cook it.

The first thing is that it takes patience, since you really should let it sweat out for a good 30 minutes before you even start to cook with it. Yes, I really do cover my eggplant slices in kosher salt (and then rinse them like crazy once they’re done draining, of course!). In fact, this one step is the only thing in this recipe for Eggplant Zalouk that’s even remotely difficult or time consuming.

The best part about this dish is that you can taste all of the spices without having them right in your face in an overpowering way. The cinnamon in particular comes through beautifully, reminding me just how much I adore that spice, particularly in more savory recipes. I did leave out a few of the seasonings – I didn’t have any caraway seeds or cilantro on hand, and although I’m not very familiar with caraway seeds, I know that the cilantro would’ve been a great addition. The consistency was a little mushy, a little stew-like, and so it certainly benefitted from the crunch of a toasted pita. Even just a side salad with some nuts, homemade croutons or romaine lettuce would balance out the texture of the main dish really well. You could also eat this as a chunky pasta sauce, stuff it into the pita for a sandwich, or even bulk it up with more veggies (and maybe some beans or tofu) for a filling winter stew. I thought as I was eating it that a green like spinach thrown in would add a nice pop of color. It’s an incredibly enjoyable meal – L even liked it, and he and eggplant do not have as amicable a relationship as I do with the purple veggie.

One Year Ago: Mexican Fiesta Omelet

Eggplant Zalouk, adapted from 64 Sq. Ft. Kitchen
Yield: 2 servings

The Ingredients
1 eggplant, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tomatoes, diced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cumin powder
pinch of cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
warm whole grain bread, for serving

The Method
Arrange the diced eggplant in a colander and coat generously with kosher salt. Set aside from approximately 30 minutes to draw the bitterness out of the vegetable. Rinse and pat dry thoroughly, then preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit.

Spread the eggplant pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, or more as needed to coat each piece. Season with pepper and toss gently to coat. Bake until the eggplant becomes golden brown and tender, but not too soft, approximately 20 minutes.

While the eggplant is cooking, heat the paprika, coriander, cumin and cinnamon in a pan over medium heat. Stir the spices around until they release their fragrances, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil, tomatoes, and garlic. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium-low, cooking approximately 10 minutes. At this time, add in the cooked eggplant and any other pre-roasted or delicate (i.e. spinach) vegetables you may want to use. Toss the ingredients together well, add additional oil if needed, and cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Serve with the bread or pasta to soak up all of the juices.


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