Eggplant, Chickpea, and Tomato Bake (Musaqa’a)
Source: Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Falastin
Echoes of Greek moussaka are correctly heard here, both in the name and the feel of the dish. It’s a vegetarian take on the hearty, humble, healthful, and completely delicious sheet-pan dish. It works well either as a veggie main or as a side with all sorts of things—piled into a baked potato, for example, or served alongside some grilled meat, fish, or tofu. It’s just the sort of dish you want to have in the fridge ready to greet you after a day at work. It’s also lovely at room temperature, so it’s great for an on-the-go lunch.
Getting ahead: You can make and bake this in advance; it keeps in the fridge for up to three days, ready to be warmed through when needed.
Serves 4 as a main, or 6 as a side
5 medium eggplants (2¾ lb/1.25kg)
½ cup/120ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped (1 cup/150g)
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp chile flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp tomato paste
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1¼-inch/3cm chunks (1 ⅓ cups/200 g)
1 x 14-oz/400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1¾ cups/240g)
1 x 14-oz/400g can chopped tomatoes
1½ tsp sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp/200ml water
1 cup/20g cilantro, roughly chopped
4 plum tomatoes, trimmed and sliced into ½-inch/1.5cm rounds (12¼ oz/350g)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel away strips of eggplant skin from top to bottom, leaving the eggplants with alternating strips of black skin and white flesh, like a zebra. Cut crosswise into round slices, ¾ inch/2cm thick, and place in a large bowl. Mix well with 5 tbsp/75ml of oil, 1 tsp of salt, and plenty of black pepper and spread out on the prepared baking sheets. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until completely softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Decrease the oven temperature to 400°F.
While the eggplants are roasting, put 2 tbsp of oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, chile flakes, cumin, cinnamon, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the bell peppers, chickpeas, canned tomatoes, sugar, water, 1¼ tsp of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Decrease the heat to medium and cook for 18 minutes, or until the bell peppers have cooked through. Stir in ¾ cup/15g of cilantro and remove from the heat.
Spread out half the plum tomatoes and half the roasted eggplants in a large baking dish, about 9 x 13 inches/23 x 33cm. Top with the chickpea mixture, then layer with the remaining tomatoes and eggplants. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the tomatoes have completely softened. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes. Top with the remaining ¼ cup/5g cilantro and serve either warm or at room temperature.
Reprinted with permission from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Jenny Zarins © 2020.