Spicy Eggplant

I wasn’t sure what to call this dish. It’s based on a recipe called “Spicy Eggplant Relish” but I’m not entirely sure mine was very relish-like. I could see it topping off a rice dish, or dipping some pita in it, for sure. But me? I just went straight at it with a fork. And later over a more ladylike bed of greens, with an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Do what you want with it. Call it what you want, even. It doesn’t matter when we’re dealing with soft, velvety eggplant, addicting peppery heat and sweet fresh herbs and tomatoes, right? Right.

I snagged a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook at our local used book store and was instantly charmed by it. Mollie Katzen’s handwritten and hand-illustrated pages, along with her nurturing and laid back writing style, make it feel like the book was made just for me. First published in 1978, the Moosewood Cookbook is based on recipes from the kitchen of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York.

The restaurant was started by a collective of friends in a converted school gym. With an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine and seasonal produce, The Moosewood created many diverse and inventive vegetable-based dishes that were ahead of their time. (With the exception of the dated overuse of cottage cheese. But we’re totally cool with overlooking that.)

With the overwhelming amount of new cookbooks on my to-buy list, it’s refreshing to go back to something a bit old school. The recipes give numerous suggestions for additions and alterations that open each recipe up to personal interpretation. Thus, we end up with some kind of salad-relish hybrid that is just groovy with me.

Spicy Eggplant Relish/Salad
adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook (serves 4 as a side)

– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1 large eggplant, chopped into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces
– 1 small red onion, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 small-medium green pepper/capsicum
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
– 1/3 cup mixture of fresh chopped parsley and basil
– 10 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
– salt & pepper

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over a medium high beat. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil and the eggplant. Cook for 5 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir well.

Add a tablespoon of water, reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan to cook for another 10 minutes. After this your eggplant should be soft (cook covered for a few more minutes if not.) Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan heat your last tablespoon of olive oil and cook green pepper/capsicum over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, until slightly tender. Add to the eggplant mixture and allow to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.

Once cooled add diced tomatoes, half of the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste, mix well. Top with the remaining herbs. Serve chilled or at room temperature in a pita, over salad greens, on crackers, etc.


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