I’m stuffy & achey as can be today and this old favorite just might save the night!
This eggplant dish with a pomegranate-walnut-honey sauce is absolutely exotic. The walnuts are used as a thickening agent, the pomegranates for sourness and the honey as a sweetener. The result is a delicate sweet-and-sour flavor that is typically Persian and does not disappoint.
Be warned: somewhere along the way, it can develop an almost Pepto Bismol color as the pomegranate juice melts in with the rest of the ingredients. Rest assured, it turns a nutty, honey brown color before serving.
To remove the bitterness from common Western eggplants, peel and slice them lengthwise into quarters, then cut the quarters into 1-inch lengths. Soak the eggplant pieces in a large container of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Allow them to soak for 20 minutes, rinse them thoroughly and squeeze out the water with a towel. Asian eggplants, bottled pomegranate juice and pomegranate paste are available at Iranian markets. Serve this eggplant dish with rice or pasta.
5 Asian eggplants (2 lb.), or 2 large common eggplants with bitterness removed
6 Tbs. olive oil 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and sliced 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped cilantro leaves, plus 1 cup leaves for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 cups (1/2 lb.) toasted walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate paste diluted with 2 1/2 cups water, or 3 cups pomegranate juice
1 Tbs. honey or brown sugar, as needed
1 cup cilantro leaves for garnish
1 cup pomegranate seeds (about 2 pomegranates) for garnish
Fried eggplant rounds, fried cilantro leaves and fried onion rings for garnish, optional
1. Peel eggplants, and remove stems. Place segments of common eggplants, if using, in salted water to remove bitterness. Rinse Asian eggplants, squeeze out water with towels and slice into 1-inch-thick rounds.
2. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant, and sauté on all sides about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove eggplants from skillet, drain on paper towels and set aside. Add remaining oil to skillet, and reheat over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Add garlic during last few minutes of browning onions, and continue cooking. Add cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, turmeric, crushed red pepper, parsley, cilantro and fresh mint, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.
3. Grind walnuts in food processor until very fine or sauce will be gritty. Combine walnuts with diluted pomegranate paste and honey, as needed, and stir until sauce is smooth.
4. Pour sauce into skillet. Return eggplants and seasoning to skillet, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer mixture for 30 minutes, or until eggplants are tender, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon. If sauce is too sour, add more honey or brown sugar to taste.
Spoon onto plates or into serving dish, garnish with cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds; add optional garnishes of fried eggplant, cilantro leaves and crispy onion.