Make bademjan, as this stew is called in Farsi, on a lazy day when you have time to caramelize the onions until they’re dark and sweet, then cook the stew and let it rest for a while on the stove before eating to let the flavors develop. It’s important to use Japanese eggplants in this recipe, because their flesh is sweeter than regular eggplant and they have fewer and smaller seeds. Traditionally, the eggplant is fried before being added to the stew; but in the interest of health, I’ve chosen to roast it instead, using very little oil, and I’m happy to report that the result is simply delectable. I prefer to use a sweetened pomegranate molasses in this recipe, but if you have the unsweetened variety, you can add a shot of honey to balance the flavors: start with 1 tablespoon and sweeten to taste. You can bake off the eggplant and cook the split peas the day before. (This recipe is from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia.) —Louisa Shafia
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread the eggplant on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring gently every 10 minutes to prevent sticking. When the eggplant is completely soft, let it cool to room temperature.
While the eggplant cooks, combine the split peas with the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes, until the peas are tender. Drain and season with 1 teaspoon salt.
Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, until it starts to darken, then cook slowly over low heat for about 30 minutes, until it is dark brown and about half its original volume. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, turmeric, cinnamon, pomegranate molasses, garlic, split peas, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the stew is thick.
Turn off the heat and let the stew rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.