keito potato

Macedonian Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
October 14, 2011, 8:46 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , ,

I’m joining the cool kids, and am beginning to learn how to grow vegetables in the backyard.  This week, a few of the eggplants look ready, so I wanted to find a delicate eggplant recipe to highlight a super-fresh vegetable pulled right from the garden. 

After perusing all of my Middle Eastern cookbooks, I happened upon this Paula Wolfert recipe from The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.  Her long introduction to this recipe was exuberant and poetic, and I knew that if the stew made her this electric, then I would love it as well.  Paula first tasted this dish at a conference in Greece on traditional Greek food-ways, at a special Lenten meal accompanied by clerical prayers, candles, and ancient Christian music.

This dish takes some time to cook  — 2  1/2 hours in the oven, or all day in a crock pot — but is pretty easy to assemble.  The advantage of slow-cooking is that the delicate eggplant softens to melt in your mouth, and you don’t have to worry about last-minute kitchen management before supper.  I enjoyed smelling this cook all afternoon while I read textbooks in the next room.  If you like something like a French ratatouille, this is somewhat similar in terms of ingredients, but is far superior and delicate because of the slow-cooking.  The flavors have time to marry and soften. 

Note that you’ll need to plan ahead and soak your dried chickpeas overnight.  You could used canned chickpeas in a pinch, but the dried chickpeas have a better texture, and are cheaper.  Paula Wolfert says the ultimate version of this stew is achieved from baking the stew in an earthenware pot, but I think most of us don’t own clay pots, or at least not yet.  I baked mine in an enamed cast iron pot (Le Creseut) and it was lovely.

The large pepper and hot chili provide an appropriate soft echo of heat.  Along with the eggplant, I was also able to use a larger pepper and a smaller chili (jalapeno) from the garden as well.


1/2 pound chickpeas, soaked overnight

1-pound eggplant

coarse salt

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1 large green frying pepper

2  1/2 teaspoons chopped long green chili

1  1/2 teaspoons garlic

2 cups canned tomatoes with juice

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 teaspoon oregano

1 bay leaf


Drain the chickpeas after soaking overnight.  Place in a saucepan, add fresh water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, over low heat until half-cooked, about 45 minutes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and let stand in a colander to draw off excess moisture, about 45 minutes.  Set aside.

Chop the onions.  Chop both the large pepper and small chili into small pieces.  Peel and crush the garlic with pinch of salt.  I used a mortar and pestle for this.

Preheat the oven to 300F (if baking instead of using a crock pot).

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet.  Add the onions, frying pepper, and chili.  Stir 3 minutes.  Add the eggplant and saute without browning it, 2 more minutes.  Add the garlic, tomatoes with juice, parsley, oregano, and 1 teaspoon coarse salt.  Cook at a simmer 10 minutes, stirring often.

In a 4-quart oven-proof cast iron pot, bean pot, clay casserole, or crock pot, mix the chickpeas,  1  3/4 cups of their cooking liquid, the bay leaf, and the contents of the skillet.  Cover and bake in the oven 2  1/2 hours, or alternatively all day in the crock pot.  The aroma will be extremely fragrant, and the chickpeas very tender.  Remove the lid and bake 10 minutes more to allow excess moisture to evaporate. 

This stew is so completely satisfying that Paula Wolfert suggests that it only needs to be accompanied by dense, chewy bread.  I served it with a rice pilaf today.

“Khatte Chhole” Sour Indian Chickpeas
July 24, 2011, 10:02 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

Visually, this dish looks like a simple chickpea stew, but its lemony and gingery fragrance is assertive and intoxicating.  This is Madhur Jaffrey’s attempt to recreate her childhood memories of the intensely-flavored chickpeas sold as street food in Indian bazaars.  As I write this, I notice that the other Indian pulse recipe I’ve shared on keitopotato so far is also lemony — my lemon dal.  As a native Californian, I guess it’s natural that I’m drawn to lemony recipes.

I own several of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks, but when I lived in London I discovered this slim, older paperback called Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.  This sour chickpea recipe quickly became a favorite, and I made a batch of it probably every other week while I lived in London.  Before I started keitopotato, I typed out and emailed this recipe to various friends and family.  It’s finally time to post it here and share it with a wider circle.

This recipe calls for using dried chickpeas.  Canned chickpeas simply won’t work here because their texture is too soft.  Dried chickpeas give this dish a firmer and more defined texture, and are much cheaper than the canned ones.  They’re easy to use as long as you plan ahead and let them soak overnight.



2  1/4 cup (350 g) chickpeas

7  1/2 cups  (1.75 litres) water

2  1/2 teaspoons salt

1 fresh, hot green chili

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium onions

2 medium tomatoes

1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds

1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons garam masala

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Pick over, wash, and drain the chickpeas.  Soak the chickpeas in  7  1/2 cups of water for 20 hours. 

Put the chickpeas and their soaking liquid into a large pot and bring to a boil.  As they come to a boil, a white foam will emerge on the surface.  Skim off the foam with a ladle. 

Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for an hour and a half, or until chickpeas are tender.  Strain the chickpeas and save the cooking liquid. 

Finely chop the green chili.  Grate the ginger.  In a small bowl or teacup, combine the chili, ginger, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Mix well and set aside.

Finely chop the onions.  Finely chop or puree the tomatoes.  Heat the oil in a heavy, wide pot over medium-high flame.  When hot, add the chopped onions.  Stir and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until the onion bits develop reddish-brown spots.  Add the tomatoes.  Continue to stir and fry another 5-6 minutes.

Put in the coriander, cumin, and turmeric.  Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.  Now put in the drained chickpeas,  1  3/4 ( 400 ml) of their cooking liquid, 2 teaspoons of salt, the garam masala, and cayenne.  Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.  Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 20 minutes.  Stir a few times during this period.

Add the lemon mixture to the chickpeas.  Stir again to mix.  Serve hot or lukewarm.

Lemony Potato Stew
May 19, 2010, 6:38 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This Mediterranean stew helped me earn a reputation in college as a cook. Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking was one of my 2 cookbooks in college, and was formative in shaping my sensibility as I experimented in my tiny college apartment kitchen. This stew became a favorite, and I made it so often that my roommates affectionately called it “The Red Stuff.”

It’s a simple, earthy stew, but the simplicity is far from boring. The clean flavors have kept my friends happy over the years, and it is a great addition to a potluck. This recipe feels like an old friend, and I can’t believe I didn’t share it will all of you sooner.

I usually serve the stew over rice or bulgar pilaf, but today I poured it over a piece of toast from a rustic loaf. That made the stew seem even more homey, almost like an Italian bread soup.

I have strayed from Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe in increasing the amounts of garlic and lemon juice.


4 medium size potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 medium size onions
14 oz whole canned plum tomatoes
14 oz canned chickpeas
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice


Boil the potatoes in their jackets. Drain. When they are cool enough to touch, peel and roughly chop them.

Roughly chop the onions. Mince the garlic.

Grate the canned tomatoes with a cheese grater into a bowl. This is a trick that will given them a rough and rustic texture You will use both the tomatoes and their canning juice. Rinse and drain the canned chickpeas well in a colander.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When hot, put in the garlic and onions. Stir and fry until onions are translucent, turning the heat down if necessary. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add all the remaining ingredients (potatoes, chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice) plus 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

December 16, 2009, 11:04 am
Filed under: recipes, starters | Tags: , , , ,

Honey, are you still buying hummus from a plastic carton? Can I help you break that habit? Honestly, hummus is one of the easiest things to make from scratch, and is worlds away from that stuff in the refrigerator case. Most packaged/processed hummus cuts corners by omitting the tahini, the crucial ingredient that makes hummus what it is. Haram! Without tahini, those dreary tubs are merely bean dip. If you’re ready to try, I can hold your hand through the process.

You can experiment with different brands of tahini to find a rich, toasty, flavorful tahini that you like. You might decide to avoid some of the cheaper tahinis which are pale in color, and as bland as mortar. Arab groceries and health food stores tend to carry a good variety. Try to find something dark and rich, something tasty enough to spread on toast. You can always ask the clerks what their favorite brands are.

I’ve been making hummus from scratch for 10 years, but 2 years ago a Palestinian friend helped me refine my recipe. He told me the basic ratio is 1 can of chickpeas to 1 lemon. In the past, I had added the lemon juice a few tablespoons at a time, tasting as I went. Now I know to simply start with a whole lemon as a solid foundation. You can always add more to taste, but this takes alot of the guesswork out of it. Since then, I have also started adding lemon zest. The zest adds a deeper, more elemental freshness.

Some people keep 2 kinds of olive oil in the kitchen at all times: one of decent quality for a saute, and another darker, fruitier olive oil for raw things like salads. If you have a fruitier olive oil on hand, you’ll want to use that here.

I’m lucky enough to have a big food processor in the kitchen, which whips this up in a snap with its big blades and massive motor. If you’re working with a blender or “stick” immersion blender, it will take just a bit longer because the blades are small. With a blender, you’ll need to pause from time to time to scrape down the sides and make sure everything is incorporated. You might also want to mince your garlic clove ahead of time, in case it gets ignored by the tiny blender blades. I suppose it’s easier than making it the traditional way with a mortar and pestle.


14-oz can of chickpeas
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 TBS tahini
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp ground cumin
generous pinch of salt
generous stream of olive oil
1/4 cup water


Wash and rinse the canned chickpeas thoroughly in a colander over the sink to wash away all of the canning slime. Throw the chickpeas in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until very smooth. Taste for adjustments. If you think a particular batch needs more flavor (depending on the size of the lemon or the brand of the tahini) you can add more lemon juice or tahini.

Serve at room temperature in a wide, flat bowl. Make a wide, shallow well in the center of the hummus with the back of a spoon. Drizzle olive oil in the well. Sometimes I sprinkle sumac or zaatar over the top for a pretty presentation. I also had a great version in Lebanon topped with warm, toasted pine nuts. If you’re setting up a mezza spread, muhammara is a natural complement.