morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

This Middle-Eastern inspired side dish is just too delicious to save for dinner. Pile it high on top of a generous amount of hummus. Add pita bread or naan. And you have everyone’s new favorite appetizer.

On a recent trip to California to visit with our son and his family, we were introduced to this amazing combination. It was offered at a local restaurant specializing in authentic Israeli dishes, Oren’s Hummus. It took just one bite of this goodness …I was hooked. I knew that I had to replicate it at home. Even though the subtle seasonings lean toward a Morrocan influence, I do believe that I’ve succeeded.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

Before you get started on the eggplant, give the saffron threads time to soak in the verjuice or white wine so that you get the full benefit of their awesome flavor. If you’re not familiar with verjuice, it is a cooking juice obtained from crab apples or unripe grapes. It should be available in most supermarkets. On the other hand, you can easily use dry white wine as I have here.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

While the saffron is soaking, get to work on the eggplant. There are times when I choose to peel my eggplant, but it is not recommended on this one. The skin helps to hold the chunky pieces together while you roast them in the skillet. The prepared eggplant will be generously drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil then coated with tomato paste. The best way to accomplish that is to get your hands dirty …just get them in there and rub the paste all around to coat each piece.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

Preheat a cast iron or heavy-duty skillet over medium heat, coating the surface with about a tablespoon of olive oil. The eggplant chunks should be cooked in 3 batches so that they have room to brown properly on all sides. Each batch is then transferred to a baking sheet or platter to be set aside for later.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

In that same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Sprinkle with the cumin and smoked paprika; mix well and heat through for a minute until fragrant. 

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

This is when you’ll add the wine and saffron mixture to the skillet. Scrape along the bottom of the mixture as the wine deglazes the skillet. Add the tomatoes and very gently coat them with the onion hash.

A  note on the tomatoes. I use Cento San Marzano Organic Peeled Tomatoes. Every time. They are never “mushy” or “badly broken” when I open the can. They work really well for this recipe since you want to end up with substantial pieces of stewed tomato with your finished dish.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

Cover with a lid and allow to gently simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and begin to break down. Fold in the roasted eggplant chunks and replace the lid. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 more minutes until the eggplant is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat. Keep covered until ready to serve.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

If your pine nuts are raw, give them a quick toast on the stovetop. Place them in a small dry non-stick pan. Cook them over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid over-browning.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

This flavorful dish can be enjoyed as a snack with hummus. Or as a side dish over couscous with grilled chicken. The list is endless. As you can see here, my first choice is to pile it on top of a generous mound of homemade hummus. Sprinkle those toasted pine nuts on the whole thing. You could even add some crumbled feta cheese. Why not, right?

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoesmorrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

Just be sure to include some pita – or maybe some homemade naan – for dipping into all that goodness. 

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

Inspired by Oren's Hummus

Enjoy the subtle flavors of saffron, cumin, and smoked paprika in this delicious medley. 

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8 servings as a side
Author Rosemary Stelmach

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or verjuice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, firmly packed
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2” cubes (about 16 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided (plus more for drizzling)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste (about 3.5 ounces)
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped (about 4.5 ounces)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, roasted or toasted (about 1.5 ounces)

Instructions

  1. Place the wine and saffron threads in a small bowl. Set aside to allow the threads to soften.

  2. Place the eggplant cubes in a large bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt along with the freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Using your hands, toss to coat. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the tomato paste. Once again, using your hands, toss to coat as you rub the paste on all sides of each cube.

  3. Heat a heavy-based frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Working in 3 batches, add the eggplant cubes to the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until tender and golden, tossing frequently to brown all sides. You may need to drizzle additional olive oil, as you proceed, to prevent sticking. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter. Set aside.

  4. In that same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Sprinkle with the cumin and smoked paprika; mix well and heat through for a minute until fragrant. 

  5. Add the wine and saffron mixture to the skillet. Scrape along the bottom of the mixture as the wine deglazes the pan. Add the tomatoes and very gently coat them with the onion hash. Cover with a lid and allow to gently simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and just begin to break down.

  6. Fold in the roasted eggplant chunks and replace the lid. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 more minutes until the eggplant is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat. Keep covered until ready to serve. 

  7. Just before serving, scatter with the toasted pine nuts.

Recipe Notes

If your pine nuts are raw, give them a quick toast on the stovetop. Place them in a small dry non-stick pan. Cook them over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid over-browning.

morrocan roasted eggplant with stewed tomatoes

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