Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes
Let’s play Food Jeopardy. The answer is: The one food everyone can agree on. The question is: What are vegetables?
I mean, can anyone argue we should be eating fewer vegetables? Vegetables are the holy grail of health: plentiful, full of vitamins and fiber, cheaper than protein ounce for ounce, colorful, endlessly variable, potentially delicious. That last point is key; how you cook and season veggies makes all the difference. Take eggplant. They’re in season now through fall, beckoning from the bins with their aubergine skin and green toupees. But what do you think of when you see an eggplant? Frying it? Grilling it? Probably not steaming it, but that’s the secret to this fragrant dish. It makes the flesh creamy and sweet, utterly different than any other version. There’s another secret, too: cutting off the skin in stripes so you get a little of both textures.
Think of this as Moroccan ratatouille. They think of it as a salad and serve it at room temperature, but you can serve it warm, or cold the next day from the fridge for lunch. Better for you than that salami sandwich.
1 large Italian eggplant (1- to 1-/2 lb)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup firmly packed Italian parsley leaves and stems
1 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves and stems
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can (14 ounces) peeled tomatoes or 1 lb juicy tomatoes, seeded and chopped
With a vegetable peeler, cut alternating strips of skin off the eggplant so that it appears striped. Cut off top and cut eggplant into cubes. In a steamer above simmering water, steam eggplant cubes and 2 of the garlic cloves, covered, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or by hand, mince parsley, cilantro, and remaining 2 garlic cloves. Heat the oil in a wide saute pan and add the chopped herbs and garlic, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until ingredients are fragrant and sizzling, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon; bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until eggplants finish steaming.
Add steamed eggplant and garlic to the tomato mixture and stir to blend well. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes then uncover and with the tip of the wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant until it resembles a coarse puree. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve warm or at room temperature.