About the Recipe
I love to pick young, violet eggplants in the garden when they are in season and transform them into a hearty Sephardic stew.
Slices of succulent eggplant and tender chickpeas are cooked with the chicken, in a richly flavored fresh tomato sauce aromatic with the Rhodes Island preferred spice, ground cumin, and fragrant dried Greek oregano.
This comforting dish, known in Judeo-Spanish as Yuvetch is perfect for weekday meals. The stew can be made ahead and kept in the fridge and warmed through, accompanied with rice pilaf or crusty bread.
4 medium eggplants (aubergines)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2lb (1kg) chicken thighs with bone in, rinsed, patted dry
3 tbsp olive oil or as needed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, white part, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
1½ cups peeled, seeded fresh tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp harissa, optional for that extra kick
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup hot chicken stock or water
1½ cups cooked chickpeas, (canned or soaked and cooked dried ones)
olive or vegetable oil for shallow frying
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley to garnish
Peel eggplants into zebra-like stripes, using a small sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Cut eggplants into slices about ½in (1.25cm) thick. In a large bowl dissolve 1 tbsp salt into cold water and add 1 tsp lemon juice. Immerse eggplant slices and place a plate on top to keep them submerged. Soak for 15 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a heavy, large, wide pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook in batches until golden brown. Remove with tongs and set chicken aside.
Add the onions and leeks to the pan and cook stirring until softened. Add the garlic and cumin, stir for 1 minute.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, oregano, sugar, harissa (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up and any collected juices. Pour in enough hot stock or water to come midway up the chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Heat enough oil for shallow frying in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Sauté the eggplant in batches, for 3-5 minutes on each side, until fork tender and lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels set over a tray. Replenish the oil as necessary.
Arrange the eggplant and chickpeas in the pan between the browned chicken portions. Ladle the cooking liquid over the eggplants, to absorb the flavour, adding hot water if necessary.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until most of the liquid has reduced. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Garnish with parsley and serve hot.