Eggplant is one of my favorite plants so it was with great joy that I saw that it was the main focus of this month’s JFI food challenge. Here in Trinidad you can find the eggplant called by many different names. In the course of the day it is not uncommon to hear it being referred to as not only eggplant, but also melongene, aubergine, or baigan – even by the same person! This dish is redolent with the flavours of the Middle East and is a personal favourite of mine. I’ve heard some vicious rumours that there exist people who don’t like eggplants. I certainly hope that this is not true? If so, I hope maybe you’ll like it too!
Eggplant Ragout with Tomatoes, Peppers and Ground Beef
Serving Size: 6
1 1/2 lb. eggplant, preferably plump round fruits
2 tbsps. olive oil, more for brushing the eggplant
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large bell pepper, red or yellow, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves plump garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsps. paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
generous pinch cayenne
2 tbsps. tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water
5 plum tomatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the broiler. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 3/4-inch rounds and brush both sides with olive oil.
Broil until light gold on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Let cool and cut into 1-inch pieces.
In a medium Dutch oven, heat the 2 tbsps. olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the ground beef, onion and bell pepper; sauté until the onion is lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes.
During the last few minutes of browning, add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and cayenne.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 min.
Stir in 1/4 cup of the water and boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the juices from the bottom of the pan.
Add the tomatoes, eggplant, remaining 1 cup water and salt.
Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, until the vegetables are quite tender, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Stir in the parsley, adjust the seasonings, and serve.
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