Eggplant. For a long time it seemed to me as if being vegetarian meant eating eggplant. I’d go into a restaurant and the one vegetarian item on the menu would be ratatouille, eggplant Parmesan, or pasta with eggplant. Though currently the ubiquitous vegetarian item seems to be hummus, there are still restaurants I visit where the only vegan option is an eggplant sandwich (panini, wrap, sub, or whatever, depending on the sandwich trend du jour), so if I didn’t like eggplant, I would be shiitake out of luck.
Fortunately, I don’t just like eggplant, I love it. The most versatile of vegetables, it can be sautéed, poached, baked, roasted, grilled, pureed—even stuffed. Try that with your broccoli!
Unfortunately, restaurants haven’t quite caught on to the many ways to cook eggplant, so invariably it’s breaded and fried, turning a naturally healthy vegetable into an oil-drenched cardiac time bomb. I’m not blaming the restaurants; anyone who’s ever cooked eggplant knows that if you get a splash of oil anywhere near it, the eggplant’s going to soak it up like a sponge and scream “feed me more!”
So what to do? I say, skip the oil completely and rely on other ingredients and seasonings to flavor your eggplant. I know there are those of you who don’t like eggplant unless it’s fried—or don’t like it at all—so I’ve been looking for new ways of cooking it that do away with the bitter flavor that eggplant can sometimes have and eliminate the need for oil.
Warning: I’m About to Mention the Microwave, But You Don’t Have To Use It
In the massive reference book/cookbook Vegetable Love, Barbara Kafka says that microwaving gives eggplant a “lightness of taste and lack of bitterness” as well as preserves the color of the skin and flesh better than other cooking methods. Bryanna Clark Grogan has also experimented with microwaving eggplant, which she says dries it out so that it no longer has the same oil-sucking abilities, so after consulting her blog, I decided to try a version of her approach:
While my onions were browning, I spread four cone-shaped coffee filters on a plate, narrow ends to the middle, and piled my lightly salted eggplant on top. I didn’t spray the filters with oil, but after microwaving on high for 8 minutes, the eggplant didn’t stick at all. Some of the cubes of eggplant were becoming shriveled and dry while others were a little undercooked. If I had spread them out so that they were all touching the filters, they probably would have cooked more evenly, but I wasn’t worried because I knew they’d have a chance to finish cooking in the pot with the other ingredients. (You can skip this step if you’re micro-phobic; see the recipe below.)
Success! The ragout cooked in record time, and the eggplant was mild and delicious. Some of it broke down to become part of the sauce, but there were still plenty of cubes of deliciously flavored eggplant. Maybe I’m prejudiced because this aromatic stew contained so many of my favorite ingredients—chickpeas, cumin, smoked paprika, and quinoa as well as eggplant—but it’s one of my favorite dishes.
Tunisian Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa
- 1 medium eggplant cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
- 1 large onion halved and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 -2 teaspoons harissa or chili sauce, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 medium zucchini quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas drained
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 8 halved cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup quinoa well rinsed
- 2 cups fat-free vegetable broth
- 1 clove garlic minced
- Cover a large plate with unbleached coffee filters. (4 cone-shaped filters fit a dinner plate perfectly, but you could also use two round filters, stacked; see notes below for more options.) Toss the eggplant in a bowl with a little salt, and arrange it on top of the filters. Microwave for about 8 minutes, while proceeding with the rest of the recipe. (Note: You can skip this step and sauté the eggplant along with the onion. Allow additional cooking time as needed to fully cook eggplant.)
- Sauté the onion in a large non-stick pot until it begins to brown, adding a little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Add all spices, including cinnamon stick, and stir for another minute. Add the zucchini, canned tomatoes, chickpeas, raisins, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the eggplant and cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook on low while quinoa is cooking.
- Heat a medium-sized nonstick pot. Add the rinsed quinoa, and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the quinoa is fairly dry. Add the vegetable broth and garlic, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Cook until quinoa absorbs all of the water, about 15 minutes. (If quinoa is tender and doesn’t seem to absorb all the water, remove the cover and turn up the heat for a few minutes.)
- Remove cinnamon stick. Spread a bed of quinoa on each plate and top with ragout.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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SusanVAugust 1, 2009 at 8:55 am
Here are the 62 comments that were posted before August 2009:
Mmm!!! I haven’t had eggplant in a while, so this dish is a wonderful reminder.
11:01 AM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous KathyF said…
So true about the ubiquitous restaurant menus! Except we used to joke it was portobello mushrooms.
Would love to have an eggplant right now to experiment with!
11:18 AM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous butterbean said…
what is the purpose of the coffee filters?
11:51 AM, March 25, 2009
I can attest to microwaving eggplants too. I try to use Indian or Japanese eggplants, because of their low water content. I spread them out on a plate an nuke for 15-20 minutes depending on how watery the eggplant is. I end up with dry peices that can be sauteed in olive oil. Another approach is to take a whole globe eggplant, poke a few holes in it with a fork, and microwave for around 10 minutes. Then peel the eggplant and use the pulp in your favorite bharta/chutney or hummus. I just started making eggplant soup with the pulp too.
12:06 PM, March 25, 2009
VeggieGirl, it’s been a long time for me, too, but eggplant season is just around the corner.
Kathy–Yes, portabellos! I’d forgotten the ubiquitous mushroom!
Butterbean, the coffee filters draw out moisture. When you take them out of the microwave, they’re all wet.
Anon–Thanks for those tips!
12:09 PM, March 25, 2009
I have a Japanese eggplant I bought Saturday at my local farmer’s market – all I needed was the right inspiration. I bought it to force myself to figure something out to do with it. Your blog was the first place I was going to come, but then to see THIS brand new post! I know what dinner will be tonight! Thank you!
12:15 PM, March 25, 2009
This dish sounds amazing! I’ve been loving smoked paprika lately, so maybe I’ll give it a go!
12:37 PM, March 25, 2009
Grilled veggies are fantastic, I could never find a way w/o alot of oil though, thanks for sharing! Quinoua is one of my new favorite grains, have you tried quinoua pasta? It is yellow, soft and rather grainy/nutty, very good with a stewed tomato sauce and sauteed mushrooms. 🙂
12:38 PM, March 25, 2009
Oh I Loooove eggplant. Though I try not to overdo it on the nightshade vegetables. My mom’s arthritis really cleared up when she stopped eating eggplant. sad! i mean, good. but sad!
1:26 PM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous Melissa said…
Thank you for the coffee filter tip!
1:59 PM, March 25, 2009
Mommy off the Record said…
This sounds wonderful! My only problem is that I don’t have a microwave. Any alternatives for cooking the eggplant for this recipe sans microwave?
2:28 PM, March 25, 2009
OpenID runsarah said…
Thanks for the lovely recipe, I can’t wait to try it out!
2:30 PM, March 25, 2009
Mommy off the Record: See the note in first paragraph of the recipe; you can add the eggplant along with the onions and just cook the dish for a little longer.
2:31 PM, March 25, 2009
i love that you can still get soft, yummy eggplant without oil (and the eggplant not sticking to the pan and making a mess). I have a fat-malabsorption issue and can never eat stir-fried eggplant because it’s always so soggy with oil!
this coffee-filter trick seems like it would also work well for tofu when you don’t have time to drain it (or haven’t planned that far in advance). i’ll give it a try and let you know!
2:43 PM, March 25, 2009
That looks great! I am going to note this one down. I have 4 aubergines sitting in the fridge. The line-up so far is curry and on a skewer. I will add this to my list.
2:51 PM, March 25, 2009
Ooh, this has many of my favorite ingredients. And it’s so colorful! My prediction for the next trendy vegetarian item: white bean spread. It’s popping up in hipper restaurants near me, but I won’t complain– I love the stuff!
3:27 PM, March 25, 2009
This looks wonderful!
3:36 PM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous Ricki said…
This looks fabulous! I just had eggplant yesterday, in fact–now I think I need to go buy another so I can make this!
3:39 PM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous tank said…
i didn’t read the comments, so not sure if someone’s already mentioned this, but there is an easy way to get rid of the bitterness of aubergine:
once you’ve sliced it into rounds or cubes, salt it and leave it for a while. the salt will draw the bitter juices out. then rinse the aubergine pieces well and carry on cooking.
5:31 PM, March 25, 2009
Thanks true, Tank, but microwaving actually does a better job of taking out the bitterness and in less time. But the main thing that microwaving does, salting can’t do: it removes much more of the moisture and eliminates the need for oil.
5:37 PM, March 25, 2009
I’ve never drunk coffee, so I have no idea what you are describing with the coffee filters. I don’t even know what they look like. Would you please describe the technique with perhaps parchment paper, paper towels, terrycloth wash cloths, cheese cloth, whatever I don’t know??
6:45 PM, March 25, 2009
If you can find paper towels that are certified okay for microwaving (some contain metal fibers, so beware) just use a double layer of them. A dish towel (not terrycloth) or double layer of cheesecloth would also probably work. I’d stay away from parchment paper because I don’t think it is absorbent enough. Finally, if you work somewhere that uses unbleached round coffee filters or have a friend who uses them, borrow a couple, open them out flat and use them, in a double layer, to cover the plate.
Here’s a photo of the filters on a plate. Note that the filters are unopened, so each one is a double thickness.
7:03 PM, March 25, 2009
I love eggplant too! 🙂 Have you tried roasted tomatoes and eggplants on pizza? They are yum!
8:15 PM, March 25, 2009
LOL–“if I didn’t like eggplant, I would be shiitake out of luck.”
Happily, four out of five of my family members love eggplant too–this sounds really good!
8:52 PM, March 25, 2009
Chris @ Beyond Ramen said…
I am definitely guilty of feeding my eggplant as much butter and cream that it could handle and then some. I like this rendition, though – well-stocked with perky spices and a myriad of textures, I think this will be my other go-to eggplant preparation.
9:00 PM, March 25, 2009
Wow! This dish looks totally delicious. I, too, am an eggplant lover. It’s such a versatile, great, and FILLING veggie. I can’t wait to try out this dish! By the way, I love your expressions: “shiitake out of luck” and “try that with your broccoli.” I want to run around saying these things; they’re so precious!
10:41 PM, March 25, 2009
Anonymous Anna said…
This looks gorgeous. After being force-fed ratatouille as a child I was put off all things ragout/ratatouille related but I think this recipe could really be the thing to break my aversion!
7:18 AM, March 26, 2009
Anonymous moonwatcher said…
This looks great, Susan! I look forward to trying it.
11:33 AM, March 26, 2009
Anonymous Janell said…
We can’t wait to try the recipe. Just the right combination of ingredients for a spring meal. BTW – My hubby laughed out loud at the “shiitake out of luck” comment.
12:17 PM, March 26, 2009
The spices in this sound absolutely delicious, and I’m always happy to get to add quinoa to a dish! Thank you for sharing… I can’t wait to go veggie shopping next week!
4:30 PM, March 26, 2009
Yum! I’m making this tonight for dinner…I have an eggplant to be used and this looks perfect!
5:01 PM, March 26, 2009
veggie belly said…
this looks delicious! i love anything with harissa! beautiful pictures!
5:09 PM, March 26, 2009
Delicious!! I’m definitely putting this on my list of recipes to make this summer when lots of eggplants and zucchinis are here.
9:39 PM, March 26, 2009
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
12:48 AM, March 27, 2009
OpenID Mags + C said…
This looks fantastic!!! I love eggplant and I love quinoa. I will try it out soon!!!
Thanks for all your wonderful recipe ideas! You’re a huge inspiration!
4:05 PM, March 27, 2009
You’ve done it again, Susan – although I may be a little biased, I love eggplant as much as you do and always get excited when you use it!
I’ve had a really busy week and haven’t been eating well at all – which cumulated in me lying awake at 3am Friday morning. I was overjoyed to find you had posted a new recipe and decided it looked like the perfect healthy vegetable-laden Friday night dinner. It was!
I used paper towels instead of coffee filters and it turned out fine.
12:22 AM, March 28, 2009
OpenID thecleanveggie said…
this sounds just delicious 🙂
11:10 AM, March 28, 2009
I made this last night and it was a big hit, even with my very non-vegan friends. Thank you for another great recipe! Although, next time I think I’ll add some red bell pepper.
4:16 PM, March 28, 2009
Oh, Susan, I can’t wait to try this. I’m so excited about this recipe!
6:57 PM, March 28, 2009
Eating Consciously said…
The little pot is my favorite part about this post!
7:33 PM, March 28, 2009
Hi! I really enjoy your site and have tried a few recipes, all turned out great. I wanted to ask you how do you calculate the nutritional facts about the food, as I’m starting my own cooking blog and I would like to put such figures in it. Thank you a lot in advance!
6:50 PM, March 29, 2009
Anonymous Angela said…
Susan — Made this tonight. It was so fabulous. I used two plain old Bounty paper towels instead of coffee filter and otherwise followed your directions exactly. Perfect. This microwaving trick is so great because I could never figure out how to get the eggplant cooked AND ALSO have it maintain its shape and taste so delicious.
You’re great.. I am beginning to realize that if the recipe is yours, I just KNOW I can trust it to taste fabulous.
8:33 PM, March 29, 2009
Susan, this is my favorite kind of recipe that you post: simple, healthy, and full of flavor and spice. This kind of meal also makes me a true fat-free believer; oil just isn’t necessary when you have so much else going on. I’m definitely going to be making some variation of this over the next few weeks. Keep ’em coming!
8:47 PM, March 29, 2009
Katya, check out the info at the top of this page.
Angela, I’m so gld you liked it! It sounds like you and I must have the same taste in recipes.
8:39 AM, March 30, 2009
From being an avowed eggplant hater in my youth, I’ve grown to really seriously love it. Last night’s dinner was roasted vegetables (potato wedges, carrots, summer squash, eggplant, and asparaguts lightly tossed in oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper) with black rice and a truly droolworthy sauvignon sauce. My husband even had seconds! Wowly-wow-wow!
12:27 PM, March 30, 2009
Anonymous Kip said…
That looks heavenly! Eggplant/aubergine is one of my favourite vegetables and it is incredibly versatile once you get beyond frying it. I could live on combinations of aubergine and chickpeas every day for the rest of my life and be a very, very happy girl…
Thanks for the recipe 🙂 And for the reminded I’m running out of quinoa and need to add it to the list!
2:02 PM, March 30, 2009
I love your blog. Great meal ideas!
Just wanted to say, I stumbledupon your old webpage “101 reasons *not* to be vegan: The trials of being vegan”
2) My own favorite comment that I CONTINUE to get (from people confused between animal products and ‘vegan food,’ as they so aptly call it) is: “But you can’t eat potatoes…” My usual response is “What?”
Just thought I’d share.
2:23 PM, March 30, 2009
Anonymous Betsy said…
This looks great! I’m so addicted to your soups/stews.
6:15 AM, March 31, 2009
I made it and love it!! Thank you!!
9:54 PM, April 01, 2009
Anonymous moonwatcher said…
Well, today was a day of adaptations. . .when I went to make this, I decided to use a can of Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes. . .and I had made some baba ganoush earlier in the week, which gave me the idea to make some more and put the eggplant in that way. I also added some reconstituted dried tomatoes along with the raisins. Can’t have garlic right now, didn’t have chili sauce, so added a little fennel, a little black pepper, and a little bit of red pepper flakes. It is really yummy! Thanks, Susan!
8:22 PM, April 02, 2009
Thank you a lot, now I use master cook for my blog and it really does a great job! Keep the good spirit!
4:29 AM, April 04, 2009
Just wanted to say that I find your blog really inspiring. I love cooking and creating new dishes!
Last night my partner and I tried out this ragout… it was AMAZING. A really delicious, warm-in-your-belly Winter meal. FULL of flavour. I was really impressed (especially as internet recipes can be very hit-and-miss sometimes).
Thanks for posting this, it’s going to be a regular meal in our house now!!!
P.s. Planning to try the sweet potato falafel in the enxt couple of days, will let you know how we go with those too! xx
7:30 PM, April 07, 2009
Anonymous Health said…
I think the main reason keeping me from getting one at this point is the cost factor, combined with then needing to learn how to use it.
6:13 AM, April 08, 2009
Is there anything in particular you would suggest using instead of raisins? I really don’t like raisins cooked into foods for some reason, so can I just take them out of the recipe, or should I add something else sweet, like maybe a little sugar, to replace them? Otherwise this looks really delicious. I’ve only recently realized how great cinnamon is in savory foods so I’m excited to make this!
4:10 PM, April 08, 2009
Natalie, the raisins are not essential so you can just leave them out. Hope you enjoy!
4:20 PM, April 08, 2009
Natalie – I feel the same way. I just left the raisins out… it was PERFECT!!!
6:24 PM, April 08, 2009
I made this tonight for supper–it was excellent! Even omnivore hubby liked it, so 2 thumbs-up from this household. 🙂
2:50 PM, April 11, 2009
Anonymous Carry said…
Why did I never think of subbing quinoa for couscous. It tastes so much better, and it’s not any harder to make than couscous. Thanks for the suggestion!
11:15 AM, April 12, 2009
I just made this tonight for dinner- we loved it!! Thank you
7:04 PM, April 15, 2009
When you say “6 servings” does this mean it’s about a cup per serving?
7:29 PM, May 31, 2009
Emily-Lou, I didn’t measure it, but I’m pretty sure the servings were bigger than 1 cup. I would guess 1/2 cup of quinoa and maybe 1 1/2 cups of the vegetables. The 6 servings indicates 6 main dish servings, what fits on a plate with salad or other side dishes. This one didn’t require much in the way of side dishes because it contained vegetables, grains, and beans all-in-one.
7:44 PM, May 31, 2009
Aly Su said…
This is amazing! It is by-far the best thing I have made. Highly Recommended.
1:30 PM, July 08, 2009
VirginiaMay 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm
I made this tonight and my whole family loved it! Thanks so much!!!
DyanAugust 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm
I’m eating this right now, and I don’t even care how much it’s making me sweat in the summer heat. Oh so good.
MarieSeptember 18, 2010 at 7:31 am
This recipe looks really delicious. My only question is, is there something you would suggest as a substitute for the eggplant? No matter how hard I try I just can’t get into eggplant. I was thinking just adding more zucchini (maybe mixing up green and yellow zucchini), but I was wondering if you had any other ideas.
JimPMarch 30, 2011 at 1:16 am
OMG this was good. The left overs were even better. I mean this was *really* good! And it was only the first recipe I’ve tried off this site.
PS. For the less kitchen-savvy (part time male cooks like myself), you should mention to rinse and drain the chickpeas 🙂
SusanVMarch 30, 2011 at 8:40 am
Good point about the chickpeas. Usually I say “rinsed and drained” but somehow I left that off. So glad you figured it out and it turned out well for you!
DanetteApril 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm
I tried this tonight and it was fantastic!! I had to substitute dried cranberries for raisins but it worked out great. This is something I will definitely be making again and again. Thanks for posting!
JennySeptember 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm
Just made this tonight for dinner. A-ma-zing. The smoked paprika really takes it to the next level! I would never have thought to add a cinnamon stick, either. The subtle, underlying cinnamon kick is outstanding. The fact that it looks super pretty sitting atop the quinoa is just a small bonus in comparison to the delicious flavour! Thank you so much for this! Great way to marry all of my favourite vegetables into one dish. 🙂
janet @ the taste spaceNovember 7, 2011 at 5:59 am
I made this and thought it was delicious. 🙂 I liked the mix of spices and all the veggies. 🙂
SaraApril 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm
I made this for the first time last evening: it was outstanding! I used hot smoked paprika, and that plus the chili sauce gave it a nice amount of heat. Wonderful recipe- thank you, Susan!
BeverlyAugust 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm
I’m trying cumin, turmeric, and smoked paprika for the very first time. Although I’m excited about trying your recipe for Tunisian Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa, I was let down a little bit when I learned how expensive these spices were. Normally, I wouldn’t mind buying them to add to my spice rack, but I wasn’t sure that I would care for them. So, instead of cumin and turmeric, Kroger just happened to have a sale on organic curry powder. My question to you is: Would it be okay to use curry powder in place of cumin and turmeric in the recipe mentioned above?
Thank you much in advance.
Susan VoisinAugust 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm
It’ll taste a little different, but it should work because cumin and turmeric are usually ingredients in curry powder. Hope you enjoy it!
EdwinNovember 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm
This recipe is absolutely amazing and very easy to prepare. I wanted to up the protein content (I’m a competitive weightlifter) so I increased the chickpea amount by 50% and added a block of extra firm tofu. It came out very well. Thanks for this recipe, I’m very new to vegan eating and recipes like this help me mix it up a bit.
ValerieApril 29, 2013 at 8:02 am
I made this yesterday; it was delicious and will make it again.
I’m not sure if I read incorrectly, but I thought quinoa was a seed, not a grain.
Tricha HartmanJuly 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm
This was / is amazing! very easy and very tasty!
Diane O'CallaghanMarch 25, 2015 at 5:34 pm
I love your recipes – thanks so much for making them so easy to print! I do that almost daily!
CheryApril 3, 2015 at 5:53 pm
I made a big batch of saffron rice last night. Can’t wait to eat it with this!
KarenMarch 31, 2017 at 6:45 pm
We just had this wonderful dish for dinner. Thank you for another great recipe!!! I have never been an eggplant fan because the bitterness is always pronounced for me. This microwave technique took care of the bitterness….there was none. This is the best eggplant containing meal I have ever had (I usually pick around the eggplant in a dish that others enjoy). My husband loved it, too. I had two eggplant, so I used both. I did not have any fresh tomato to use a a garnish, but that would be pretty. I had frozen, cooked chickpeas (Instant Pot) instead of canned. I used heaping measures of the spices. I used Massel vegetable boullion powder with water instead of vegetable stock (it is low salt, so I added a little salt). . The only major ingredient that I did not have was harissa (thought I did, but was incorrect). To substitute, I used a teaspoon of Asian chile/garlic condiment and a half teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. It was great! Nuts are ok for my husband, so I sprinkled a little bit of slivered almonds (toasted would have been even better) on his as a garnish and texture embellishment. We have leftovers that we are looking forward to having for lunch tomorrow. We will make this recipe again. It was perfect with the quinoa. Again, thanks for another great dinner!
MaggieJanuary 28, 2019 at 12:27 pm
So delicious! I opted to cook the eggplant with the onion as noted. Also, I’d roughly chopped 10 cloves of garlic for a different recipe that were mistakenly added to the quinoa instead, but I didn’t mind at all! This was even better the next day!