October 14, 2019
This recipe is a riff on a Bon Appetit Magazine recipe. It is an extension of the ‘rice bowl’ craze that previously swept the nation. Here, hummus, a chickpea dip/spread that is generally eaten cold or at room temperature is gently heated and spread out on the bottom of a shallow dish with a meat or vegetable sauce on top.
The ragout could be made with ground lamb instead of ground beef or prepared meat-free with colorful sautéed bell peppers and zucchini.
My dinner guest was pleasantly surprised to taste the warmed hummus; she thought it was a parsnip puree at first glance. The spices in the dish are traditional ‘warm’ Middle Eastern flavors (allspice, cumin, coriander & marjoram) which marry effortlessly with the hummus.
1 sweet or Spanish onion
3- stalks celery, washed & dried
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed to a paste (need 1 tablespoon mashed garlic)
1 ½ -2 pounds eggplant, smooth & firm
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
fresh ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds fresh-ground beef (or fresh-ground lamb)
3 cans (14 oz cans) diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire-Roasted diced tomatoes, they have good texture & flavor)
1 ½ teaspoons dried marjoram (or oregano) leaves
¾ teaspoon ground cumin seed
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
16-ounce container of prepared hummus
1-2 teaspoons prepared Harissa** spice paste or ½ teaspoon dried Aleppo pepper flakes or Italian hot red pepper flakes
**Harissa is a North African pepper paste made with sweet & hot red peppers, garlic, caraway, cumin and coriander seeds blended with olive oil. It’s a delicious condiment and it is now more readily available.
Prepare the vegetables:
a. Peel and dice the onion into ¼-inch pieces to yield about 1 cup.
b. Wash & dry the celery stalks and cut each across on the diagonal in thin slivers.
c. To dice the eggplant: Cut the top and bottom off the eggplant so you have 2 flat surfaces. Cut the eggplant in half through the circumference, because shorter pieces are safer to work with.
d. Cut each eggplant piece into ½ -inch thick planks (or slices).
e. Cut each slice or plank lengthwise into ½-inch strips.
f. Cut each strip across into ½-inch diced/square pieces
g. Grab both a colander and a bowl; both large enough to hold the diced eggplant. Sprinkle the diced eggplant with 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt, mix well and add to the colander. Set the colander inside the bowl and let the eggplant sit for 15-20 minutes. This technique softens the eggplant and draws out potentially bitter compounds.
Sauté the vegetables:
Warm a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the diced onion and sliced celery to the pot. Stir. Season with a pinch of salt. When softened and translucent add the mashed garlic paste and stir well. Continue to cook briefly. Add the eggplant to the pot and stir. Add 2-3 more tablespoons of oil and cook, covered until the eggplants are cooked through and tender. Don’t be afraid to add more oil to the pot if necessary, to prevent sticking. Add the dried marjoram (or oregano). Add the canned tomatoes to the pot. Stir and let sauce simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
Cook the meat:
Heat a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the ground beef or lamb. Cook, breaking up the meat with a large spoon to cook it evenly. Season with salt & pepper. Add the ground spices to the meat (the cumin, coriander and allspice). Stir to combine.
Add the meat with its rendered fat and juices to the simmering pot of eggplant and tomato ragout.
Let this pot simmer over low heat for10 to 15 minutes to combine all the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning: add more salt, pepper, spices to your liking.
Heat & Season the hummus:
Heat the hummus over very low heat in a non-stick sauce or sauté pan. Don’t walk away from the pot or it may stick and burn. You are just warming it up, not bringing it to a rolling boil!!
Off heat, stir in the harissa or Italian red or Aleppo pepper flakes. Taste for seasoning.
Warm 4 shallow bowls in a low oven very briefly. (OR alternately fill each bowl with hot water, drain and dry each bowl)
Divide the warmed hummus among the bowls and spread out in a thin layer with the back of a spoon.
Ladle the ragout over the top of each dish.
Optional garnish: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts (Pignoli) over the top of each bowl.
Eat immediately. Yum.
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