Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Stew

I'll be honest. I love red meat. LOVE IT. I was a strict vegetarian - no animals whatsoever, not even fish - from age 11 to 23, but when I began eating meat again it was the beef I went for. However, meat is not meant to be the basis of our diet, and most people in Western society eat far too much of it. The excessive consumption of meat has led to such gross outrages as factory farming, heart disease and other health problems, and (perhaps the worst part) low-quality meat.

Far better to only have meat every once in awhile, using it as Thomas Jefferson did, as "a condiment for the vegetables." Enter the Meatless Mondays movement. Aimed at improving the public health, the idea is to encourage people to go vegetarian one day a week. (Besides, if you only eat meat rarely, you can afford better quality meat.)

So here's an old standby from my younger days: Eggplant Stew. You'd be surprised how delicious this is. My ex, a dedicated carnivore, loved this and called to ask for the recipe the day after we broke up. It takes about half an hour to put together, and it goes beautifully on top of baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, or polenta. Fast, cheap, hearty, and delicious - you'll never miss the meat!


Olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 or 2 carrots, scrubbed and sliced
1/2 cup dry wine (can be red or white)
1 to 2 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Rosemary, oregano, and/or basil, to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional, if you want to keep it vegan)

Heat a little olive oil in a large, deep skillet or a wok; add the onion. Saute until the onion softens, then add garlic and eggplant. Continue to saute until the eggplant softens and begins to darken. Add the carrots and keep cooking it up until the carrots soften up a bit and the eggplant is mostly cooked through. Pour in the wine, and stir for a bit so that the eggplant soaks up most of the wine.

Stir in the tomato sauce now. Depending on how big the eggplant was, and how saucy you want this to be, you'll need about a cup or so. You can use spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce for this, but you can also use the plain kind of tomato sauce (note to Australians: I do not mean ketchup!) and just season it with a bit more herbs. In the summer you can use fresh chopped tomatoes - yum!

So stir the sauce in, add a splash of balsamic, and season it up with salt and pepper, rosemary, oregano, basil, what have you. Turn the heat down to a very low simmer, cover, and give it at least five minutes to mingle over the heat. If your potatoes, rice, polenta, or whatever you're serving it over is taking awhile, this can simmer for up to 30 minutes or so. But when the base is ready, spoon the stew on top, and garnish it with Parmesan if you like.

This keeps well, by the way, and tastes great cold. So if there are any leftovers, take them to work for lunch the next day!

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