Monday, June 11, 2012

Sweet & Smokey Stewed Eggplant and Cilantro-Lemon Fava Beans

Mid-East on my mind: Stewed Eggplant with roast tomatoes, allspice and cinnamon
Last week, my thoughts were consumed by the anticipation of Friday's doctor visit. It was the big half-way appointment: 20 weeks pregnant. Finding out the sex of our baby, and decorating the nursery, was all I could think about. Would it be blue? Would it be pink? Definitely not pink, but probably Benjamin Moore Metro Gray with pink accents in the decor! Yes, I was obsessed.

Take a look at all my Pinterest boards, you'll see.

I still am obsessed with the nursery design, although now I know for sure that it will be blue! Not to mention that baby boy's development is right on track, but I wasn't worried about that. Now that I have my final inspiration board built in Illustrator, as well as the challenging floor plan (I'm nothing if not anal about design process), maybe I can focus back on telling you about food for a few minutes.

At least until Friday, when we head over to Europe to tour Scandinavia!

Can you see that I have just a little pregnancy A.D.D.? How could I not? I'm not complaining.

Somehow between my obsessive pinning, swiping and calculating, I managed to cook a few meals. My latest craving is Lebanese food. And if not exactly Lebanese, at least a mish-mosh of cool Mid-East and Mediterranean mezze.

I'm also attempting to incorporate fava beans, highly recommended for pregnancy nutrition, into my diet. My husband and I had an odd brush with some pre-cooked favas a few years ago that left us feeling drugged, so we've been leery ever since. We finally decided to try Foul Mudammas from this good Lebanese restaurant Tripoli in our neighborhood, and we loved it. They were like a simple warm salad of favas, garlic and lemon, eaten with pita bread. And this time we felt fine afterwards.



Last week I did a little experimenting with Mid-East flavors. I picked up a few fresh fava beans, so I could learn how to prepare them, and make a Foul Muddamas inspired dish. I got mine from Eataly, but they are in season now and the greenmarkets have tons.

As a main course, I concocted a simple eggplant stew using tomatoes and spices. Very simple. All of this I served with a little flatbread seasoned up with some olive oil and za'atar spice. What a delicious and healthy meal it was!

Whole wheat flatbread from Trader Joe's, toasted with olive oil and za'atar

Hopefully I'll get to make these dishes for guests in the future. They are really simple and can be complimented with a few other simple items. I might start with a trip to the local ethnic grocery, Sahadi's, for ideas. Here's how I see the (entirely vegetarian, almost all vegan) menu panning out:

Vegetarian Mid-Eastern Dinner Party

Appetizers:
Hummus and Pita Chips - we love Trader Joe's Cilantro-JalapeƱo Hummus & Salted Pita Chips
Medjool Dates - the ones attached to the branches are the most fun
Fresh Figs - although they are quite pricey, around $2 each
Labneh (fresh cheese made from yogurt, if you can find it) or Chevre goat cheese
Whole Olives
Roasted Almonds

Dinner:
Cilantro-Lemon Fava Beans
Sweet & Smokey Eggplant Stew
Rice Pilaf (such as those that Near East makes in a box)
Yogurt Sauce (plain greek yogurt, mint, diced cucumber, salt, pepper and a spritz of lemon)
Raw sliced rainbow bell peppers
Warm flatbread, preferably with a drizzle of olive oil and za'atar spice (which I find easily at William's Sonoma).

Dessert:
Something delicious, and storebought - maybe baklava


Cilantro-Lemon Fava Beans
4 small servings


1/4 tsp cumin seeds
2 T olive oil
2 lb fresh fava beans in smooth, green pods
1-1/2 C tomato (2 medium vine tomato), diced
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste


1. Prepare the fava beans by getting them out of the pods. Pull the strings at the sides, squeeze them, peel them - whatever you have to do to get them out. Drop them into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.


2. Place a small (dry) saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast for about 1-2 minutes until they are fragrant. Shake the pan gently to move them around. 


3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add olive oil, cooked fava beans, tomato, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 8-10 minutes, until the liquid from the tomatoes is almost evaporated. Cook longer if you want your beans softer. Stir in the cilantro for the last couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.


4. Serve garnished with lemon wedges, cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil. Eat with flatbread or pita. 




Sweet and Smokey Stewed Eggplant
4 servings


2 T olive oil
1/4 C onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 C canned fire roasted crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen brand)
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1 T lemon juice
2 T cilantro, chopped


1. Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. 


2. Add eggplant and cover for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick down.


3. Uncover and add crushed tomatoes and their juices. Cook and stir another 5 minutes until eggplant is translucent and tender. 


4. Season with allspice, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add more to taste if needed (for example if you have a larger eggplant you may want to add more). If eggplant is not very soft,  simmer a few minutes longer. Serve with a generous garnish of cilantro and a side of flatbread or warm pita.




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