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I met Hemy when I lived in Israel 45 years ago, and she and I became lifelong friends. She taught me to cook some of the dishes that her mother taught her, like this eggplant-tomato stew. Hemy could cook eggplant a dozen different ways, but like our friendship, this stew has endured the test of time.
Recently, an old, dear friend who lived with me for a time in Israel requested that I make Hemy's eggplant, which I had not made in some 30 years. (After having kids, I almost never made the dish because the flavors were a little strong for my kids.)
I called Hemy up, and she reminded me how to make her dish. The recipe features crushed red pepper as the main seasoning, and you can adjust the amount of red pepper you use. Hemy taught me to make the eggplant "harif”—spicy. This was one of the first dishes I learned to make that endeared me to the heat and spiciness of Middle Eastern cuisine. It was a departure for me from the German and Czech cooking I was raised on.
I consider this a five-ingredient dish, and it is so easy. You will use lots of olive oil, so have the bottle right by the stove top as you fry the eggplant—though brushing slices with olive oil and roasting them in the oven cuts down on the amount of oil used overall. Like eggplant parmesan, this makes a great sandwich with toasted bread when served at room temperature.
- Olive oil, as needed
- 3 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 heaping teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes or 26 ounces chopped skinless tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste (be generous)
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