Moroccan Ratatouille with Dates
Ratatouille, traditionally a rustic dish of French origins, is unfussy, flexible and savoring-ly satisfying without being too heavy. This interpretation infuses spices and dates for a Moroccan twist of complex flavor without much effort. Salting the eggplant first draws out the bitter juices, though because it increases the saltiness of the dish, be mindful to scale back adding too much salt while it is cooking. Savory Moroccan dishes are traditionally served with couscous and classic French ratatoullie is served with crusty bread, though whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or millet are not only delicious but will also do the body good.
Yields: 4-6 servings
1 nice eggplant, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise and into ¼-inch sections along the grain (the way you would cut an apple)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise, then across and into ¼-inch sections
2 zucchinis, sliced ½-inch thick
1/3 cup dates, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
6 Roma or Plum tomatoes or 4 common tomatoes
2 teaspoons Rasel-el-Hanout
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss the eggplant with salt and place in a colander over a bowl for 1 hour to drain away bitter juices. Rinse the eggplant and squeeze gently. Rinsing it is a good idea to prevent over-salting the dish. P.S.: This step of salting is not entirely necessary, but worth the effort. It can be done a day ahead of time if necessary (the eggplant will brown a bit from oxidation, but be just fine to use).
Heat the olive oil in a tagine or large skillet and sauté onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.
Add bell pepper, eggplant and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Fold in dates, tomatoes, Rasel-el-Hanout, a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and cover with a lid to cook for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and mix into the dish a bit.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.