Baby Eggplant With Raisins, Feta, and Mint

eggplant finished

 

Oh Lordy. The construction of the new garage/studio is going to be the death of me. It has been more than a year since our contractor told us he was ready to start, and 10 months since the plans were approved by the City. “How long will it take?” I asked, naively. “Oh, not more than 6 weeks” he said. “Great”, I said… “It needs to be finished for our annual summer party the third weekend of August”.

“No problem”.

That was last May. Silly, silly me. This is what my backyard looks like today…

garage
Are you getting the picture?!?!

Nevermind.

I met this morning with the paving stone guy, the fence guy, and the contractor, all while the concrete guys were grinding down the retaining wall at an evil pitch. When I was finished I told Husband that I was ready to <bleeping> kill someone. He offered to take me out for dinner but as my family’s hot weather vacation is just 3 weeks away, I need to watch the calories. So… this!

I’ve been riffing on this for a few years, usually using large eggplant cut in half and topped with the sauce and then baked (one time even adding ground lamb… oh the horrors!). But this past Christmas my sister-in-law was here for the weekend and I had to come up with a vegetarian dish. I couldn’t find any nice big eggplants, so I tried doing a casserole thingy with baby eggplant. I assumed it would be a somewhat forgettable side dish to a meal of dungeness crab (and main for said beautiful Vegetarian) but, shockingly, the entire dish disappeared… quickly!!!  It’s healthy and delicious. Serves 4. Make it for a friend. :)

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp turmeric
1 TBS cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 TBS coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp smoked paprika

28 oz can tomatoes
1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted in oven or skillet until golden
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 TBS plus 1 tsp brown sugar
1/8-1/4 tsp asafetida powder (garlic or onion powder can be substituted)

1 lb baby eggplant, topped and halved
salt and pepper

Garnish:
feta cheese, crumbled
chopped fresh mint leaves

eggplant raw
Coat bottom of frying pan with olive oil and heat on high until it shimmers. Turn heat down to medium and add onion, cooking for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 5 minutes until everything is nicely softened. Add spices and fry another 2 minutes until fragrant.

eggplant onions and spices
Add tomatoes, pinenuts, raisins and brown sugar and continue to cook a few more minutes. Turn off heat and stir in eggplant. This can sit until you are ready to put it in the oven, about 1 1/2 hours before you wish to serve.

eggplant frying pan
Heat oven to 400F. Pour eggplant mixture into casserole dish with cover. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove cover, turn heat down to 375F, and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, until eggplant is soft and browned.

eggplant casserole
Top with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint. Can be served with basmati rice and/or fresh naan bread.

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