My husband’s mother Judith was a wonderful cook. She was a sixth-generation Sephardic Jew from Israel, born on Carmel Mountain in Haifa. Judith was first and foremost a family woman who devoted her life to creating a warm and cozy home. She would spend her days in the kitchen and tending the vegetable garden, providing nurturing sustenance for her family. She cooked on a tiny tin stove and made everything from scratch. Her kitchen was full of love.
Unfortunately, I never had a chance to meet Judith. She passed away before I came into my husband’s life. Despite this, I still feel her presence strongly in our home, especially when we have family gatherings. Everybody speaks of the amazing meals she cooked, how she would spend hours and hours preparing a single meal. It amazes me how food has this power to pass on positive energy. A meal made with love can go on living long after the chef who created it is gone.
My husband’s sister Mooshi takes after her mom. She cooks with love and care, recreating Judith’s beloved dishes as well as her own creations. Last week, she shared a couple of her favorite eggplant recipes with me. I especially loved the following recipe, a cooked eggplant salad with peppers and tomatoes. It’s healthy and surprisingly filling, without any added meat or dairy. It’s meant to be served with bread, like challah– the bread can be dipped into the delicious sauce. As we cooked, Mooshi explained to me that eggplant was a staple in their childhood home. Judith often cooked eggplant because it was widely available and inexpensive. Both Mooshi and my husband adore eggplant, and now I understand why. It reminds them of Judith, of mom, of home. I hope you will enjoy this simple recipe as much as we do!
Note: If you’re gluten free, you can enjoy this recipe on its own or served as a vegan stew over rice or quinoa.
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- 2 large eggplants
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 2 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Peel the eggplant in stripes, keeping a few strips of skin intact so they run down the sides of the eggplant vertically. These strips of skin will help to hold the chunks of eggplant together; they also add flavor.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch chunks. Put half of the chunks into the skillet and let them fry for about 10 minutes.
- When the cubes begin to turn golden brown, transfer them to a larger pot. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the skillet and fry the second batch of eggplant chunks the same way, for about 10 minutes till golden brown. Transfer the chunks to the large pot.
- Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the skillet and add the bell pepper chunks. Let them fry for about 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry for 2 more minutes, till the garlic is fragrant.
- Transfer peppers and garlic to the large pot.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, water, cumin, salt, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper.
- Pour the liquid mixture into the large pot and bring all ingredients to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a medium-low simmer and cover the pot, leaving a small gap open to vent. Let the mixture slowly simmer for 1 hour till sauce is thickened and reduced. Remove from heat.
- This cooked salad can be served hot or cold depending on preference. Our family enjoys it at room temperature. You can serve it with freshly baked bread if you wish. If you’re gluten free, you can enjoy this recipe on its own or served as a vegan stew over rice or quinoa.