Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roasted eggplant with chickpeas and chermoula

Roasted and mashed eggplants feature in Indian as well as Mediterranean cuisine. In India, it is made into Bharta - roasted eggplant cooked with onions and tomatoes, the Greeks serve it as Melitzanosalata - a roasted eggplant dip with yogurt and the Turks serve it as Baba ghanoush - roasted eggplants with fresh herbs.

I have used the Indian version as my base for this recipe and incorporated cooked chickpeas and flavored it North African style with a Chermoula spice mix. Chermoula consists of various fresh herbs and spices and is used as a marinade for chicken and lamb. But I found this dry Chermoula spice mix on the web at http://www.herbies.com.au/ and I have been using it as a spice in various dishes. This particular version contains  Cumin, Paprika, Onion, Turmeric, Cayenne, Garlic, Parsley, Salt, and Pepper. The combination of spices works well with the smoky flavor of the eggplants and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and tang of the tomatoes. The chickpeas provide a textural contrast to the soft eggplant. The dish is cooked with cilantro and the final addition of chopped cilantro leaves gives the dish an additional burst of freshness.

Roasted eggplant with chickpeas and chermoula
1 large purple eggplant (a little more than a lb)
1/3 cup cooked chickpeas (I used organic canned chickpeas)
1 large tomato chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon chopped green chili (Jalapeno or Serrano)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons chermoula spice mix 
½ cup chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
4 teaspoons canola oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes turning it after every ten minutes, till the skin is charred and coming away from the flesh. Remove from the oven and cool. (Or you could roast it over the fire if you like a smoky flavor like I do).
  3. Once cooled, use a kitchen towel to scrape off the charred skin. Cut off the top and smash the roasted eggplant with a potato masher and set aside.
  4. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet with canola oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté over medium high heat till the onions are soft and light brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, cooked chickpeas, mashed eggplant and salt and sauté for 2 minutes over medium high heat uncovered. Then add the chermoula mix and cover the pan and cook over medium heat for another 5 to 7 minutes till the tomato is well incorporated into the eggplant. Add half the cilantro leaves and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Serve garnished with additional cilantro leaves.
  5. Serve with Pita chips or Pita bread in a whole wheat wrap with some shredded lettuce.

Serves 2 to 3

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