A few weekends ago, I visited my parents in Kentucky while Garriy spent some time with an old friend in Knoxville. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting my Uncle David’s amazing farm, which is practically bursting with produce at the moment. Kale, chard, tomatoes, red and green cabbage, eggplant, corn, peppers, chiles, butternut squash, zucchini–he truly sent me home with a veritable feast.
Our garden is only producing herbs and chiles at the moment, as our swiss chard fades out, and our tomatoes and bell peppers get ready to ripen, so I couldn’t have been happier for the bounty.
I love eggplant, but prefer it smoky and broken down into a silky texture rather than in big chunks. Also, I didn’t want to make an eggplant dip (though that’s one of my favorite things in the world…), but I wanted to use blackened eggplant to get the smoky, meaty flavor that imparts. I came up with this. It’s definitely Paula Wolfert and Yotam Ottolenghi (Naomi and I are clearly on the same page) inspired, but I didn’t use an existing recipe. I thought we’d have leftovers for lunch, but Garriy and I both gobbled it up. This one’s a keeper for sure.
The directions look long, but don’t pay attention to that. It’s easy to roast the eggplant while making the bulgar, and to saute all of the veggies together into a jam-like consistency in a manner of 15 minutes. Also, microwaving coarse bulgar to make sure it’s cooked through is my favorite method, but you can also just follow the simmering or soaking directions here, which are perhaps more traditional methods. If you use fine bulgar, you cut your steps in half–all you need to do is cover the bulgur with boiling water and let it sit till the water is absorbed, as there’s no need to cook it further.
Smoky Eggplant and Tomato with Herbed Bulgur
- 1 eggplant
- 3 Tb. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small fresh red chile, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper or 2 small, diced
- 1 large ripe tomato, diced
- 1 Tb. pomegranate molasses
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 C. coarse bulgur
- boiling water
- large handful each of fresh flatleaf parsley and basil, minced
Prick the eggplant several times with a fork, and then put the eggplant over an open flame on your gas stove and patiently wait while it blackens. Turn with tongs until it blackens on all sides (alternatively, you can blacken it under the broiler). I recommend letting it char a lot. When the eggplant is uniformly blackened, place it in a bowl or on a plate to steam for a moment and to let the skin loosen.
In the meantime, just cover the bulgur with boiling water and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid or a plate. Let the bulgur absorb almost all of the water. Once the bulgur water is mostly absorbed, cover the bowl and microwave the bulgur for 5 minutes to finish the cooking. Set the bulgur aside to sit and steam while you continue to cook.
While the bulgur is sitting, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the chile and the red bell pepper. Stir occasionally over medium heat until the bell pepper is extremely soft. Cut the eggplant in half, and using a spoon or a dull knife, scoop out the flesh. Chop the eggplant coarsely and then add, along with the diced tomato, to the bell pepper. Add some salt and pepper and turn heat to low and simmer. Once the mixture is tender and has melded together, stir in the pomegranate molasses. Taste for salt and pepper.
Stir the herbs into the bulgur, along with a glug of olive oil. Serve the eggplant mixture over the bulgur.