This easy tomato and eggplant ragout is my new favorite thing to make. It is easy enough for a week night, it can be a one pot meal, and it is flavorful enough to impress if you’re cooking for a crowd. I really like the mixture of flavors but you can feel free to add or subtract spices as you choose. This is my first recipe experimenting with eggplant, and my friend Julia and I were so pleased that we have made it numerous times since then.
It’s funny when you think that you know a food, and that you know that you don’t like it. Maybe there are exceptions, for example: some people only like cooked onions, or beets when they are pickled, or some people like fresh tomatoes but hate sun dried tomatoes. Then, sometimes, when you experiment with an ingredient you discover so many new aspects of it.
This is what happened with me and eggplant. I thought for sure I didn’t like it, unless it was made one of these following three ways:
- Breaded and fried (eggplant parmesan or maybe even eggplant “fries”)
- Roasted or smoked and whipped beyond recognition into baba ganoush
- Cooked into a tomato and eggplant dip from a kosher market in Phoenix
Otherwise I really disliked eggplant. Until I came to Israel.
Eggplant is on almost every menu here. There are entire dishes devoted to eggplant and you can often order it as a side. It is roasted, grilled, made into sauces, and cooked into stews, like this tomato and eggplant stew. Maybe the quality of the eggplant is better here, or maybe the people here have just had more time to perfect their preparation of this odd vegetable. Regardless, it is awesome, and I’m completely converted.
Tomato & Eggplant Ragout
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium sized eggplant, which feels heavy for its size
5 medium-large tomatoes
5 garlic cloves
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp paprika
3 tsp za’atar spice blend*
Optional- chili flakes (if you want it to be really spicy)
1 tbsp onion flakes
1/2 tbsp skhug chili paste (optional)*
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 vegetable bullion cube
2 1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large & deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Quarter the onion and cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices and add to the olive oil. Cook on low for 20 minutes until the onions slightly start to brown.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into slices, and then into small cubes or rectangles, and place in a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt and rest the colander over a bowl or the sink to let excess moisture drip off. Chop the tomatoes into rough cubes and mince the garlic; set both aside.
Once the onions are done, remove them from the pan and set aside. Rinse the eggplant to remove the excess salt and press between paper towels to dry. Add the extra 2 tbsp of oil to the pan. Once it is heated, add the eggplant and sear on all sides. You might have to do this in two batches.
Once the eggplant is golden brown on most sides, transfer to a pot. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook together on low for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes just start to soften. Then add all of the spices (cumin, paprika, zatar and onion flakes) and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Lastly, add the skhoug chili paste, tomato paste, water, bullion, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until most of the water is incorporated, making a thick stew. Most of the tomatoes and eggplant should be completely softened, they may even begin to disappear into the ragout.
Once the ragout has cooked for 45 minutes, taste it and adjust the flavors to your liking. You can add more spices, salt, and pepper.
To serve, remove from heat and drizzle with an extra 2 tbsp of olive oil. Serve over rice or with crusty bread, or even as a dip for challah on Shabbat. Enjoy!
*If you don’t have za’atar, you can substitute a mixture of mostly oregano and a little thyme or marjoram (dried & ground). Likewise, if you don’t have skhoug, just substitute anything spicy that you like, or another chili paste.
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