Given my dislike of tomatoes, a recent visitor to my apartment was startled to see two beautiful raw tomatoes sitting on my counter. For a moment, she was delighted at the thought I’d been converted. But I quickly assured her that I still hate them—I just came across a recipe full of things I like (eggplant! chickpeas! pomegranate molasses!) with a new way to transform them from nasty raw goop into delicious, thoroughly cooked, sauce.
Thank you, Martha Rose, Shulman, for this trick: “Rather than peeling, seeding and dicing the tomatoes, I grate them on the large holes of a box grater. This is a technique I learned in Greece; it’s used throughout the Mediterranean. Cut the tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds if instructed to do so, and rub the cut side against the grater. Don’t worry: the skin is tough and you won’t scrape your hands. When you feel the holes of the grater against the inside of the tomato skin, you’re done. It goes quickly, and it’s a nifty time-saver.” It means you have to get your hands in some nasty, foul-smelling tomato goop, but it’s worth it.
Sweet and sour eggplant, tomatoes, and chickpeas
From the New York Times
1 large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise then cut in 1/2-inch slices
Salt to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, grated or peeled, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of mint and parsley
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and oil it with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on top. Salt lightly and brush with olive oil. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft to the touch (the surface will be dry). Remove from the heat, and fold over the foil to make a packet around the eggplant slices. Allow them to soften and steam inside the foil for 15 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy lidded casserole or skillet. Add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste, sugar and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell very fragrant.
Add the eggplant, molasses and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture should be thick and the eggplant should be very tender, melting into the mixture. [This only took me about 15 minutes, maybe less.] Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle on the parsley and/or mint, with optional feta, and serve. Alternately, allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves three to four.