Eggplant and Chickpea Stew

From Eating Well, January/February 2011
Serves 8
***Slow cooker recipe***

Serve atop quinoa, soft polenta, or pasta
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups hot water
2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1 small (1-inch) cinnamon stick
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and soaked overnight and drained
1 28-ounce can tomatoes drained and coarsely chopped (or chopped fresh tomatoes)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine dried mushrooms and hot water in a bowl. Stir well and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with a paper towel and set the liquid aside. Finely chop the mushrooms.
Meanwhile, peel eggplants, if desired, and cut in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides liberally with 2 tablespoons oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1-inch cubes and transfer to a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, cinnamon stick, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the chopped mushrooms; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom-soaking liquid and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and stir to combine with the eggplant.
Cover and cook until the chickpeas are very tender, about 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in tomatoes and parsley.

Variation: Turn 3 cups of leftover stew into Eggplant & Chickpea Baked Pasta. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (or similar 2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook 8 ounces whole-wheat fusilli according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Combine 1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Note) and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Toss the pasta with 3 cups stew, 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (or basil) and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a large bowl. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the topping is golden and crispy, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (or basil).

Certified Organic Vegetable CSA shares