Baked Eggplant Chickpea Skillet
I was craving veggies, but also comfort food… so I made this baked eggplant chickpea skillet for dinner. It’s like a cross between eggplant parm and a Moroccan chickpea stew and it hits all the right spots!
I’m not sure why, but every time I see a food described as a “skillet” I think it must be awesome. I’m a sucker for any type of breakfast skillet on any menu anywhere. So, when I have the chance to actually describe one of my dishes as a skillet, you can be sure I’m going to go for it. So, here’s my baked eggplant chickpea skillet.
People always ask me: “What are you?” in terms of my diet. I’m not sure what to answer anymore except that “I’m whatever is good for me at the time.” Last week I was on a meat kick and I made a huge meatloaf and a chicken curry dish and the biggest piece of salmon you’ve ever seen. The best part was that this big protein-fest made for the best leftovers ever. But now, I still have some left in the fridge, and I really can’t even look at it anymore. I mean, there’s only so many times I can eat the same thing no matter how many creative ways I re-invent it. And some of the ingredients I used aren’t dog friendly… ugh. Note to self: scale down on the number of servings!
Last night was my niece’s engagement party. It was soooo nice. A few of us wanted to eat a light dinner beforehand so we wouldn’t pig out on all of the enticing appetizers. I opened the fridge, looked in, saw all of the same food, and I just couldn’t do it. I so wished I had already made this baked eggplant chickpea skillet so that we could sit there with a bunch of forks and dig into that skillet! (By the way, the Poke bowls we ended up ordering in were so good!)
This week I’m feelin’ the veggies and I want to cook some vegan dishes, and even though I wished this food had been ready to eat last night, I’m happy it’s here today! This dish is healthy, clean, and comforting all at the same time. The first time I made this dish it was because I had seen a recipe for an eggplant and chickpea casserole from The New York Times and I just had to make a version of it.
Did you know that in Chinese medicine we use chickpeas to elevate the mood? Haha, I know that’s a pretty random thought here, but I just think it’s so awesome… And, this dish did make me happy…
It’s not quite prime farmers market season yet here in New York, so when I shopped for this dish I went to Whole Foods. They had more different types of eggplant than I’ve ever seen in one place. And they were so pretty. It took me awhile to choose which ones I wanted but I ended up choosing some long thin, light purple Japanese eggplants because there are no bitter seeds and the skin is really thin and not too noticeable. If you have a picky eggplant eater, I highly recommend this variety.
But… ooh, the white and neon purple striped eggplants… oh my! They are just so pretty. I’ll have to try those next time…
If you are a skillet freak like I am, you should also try my recipe for Vegan Skillet Zucchini Parmesan.
Here are some of the awesome things this baked eggplant chickpea skillet can do for you:
In eastern medicine, eggplant is added to the diet when there is pain in the body because it’s great for relieving pain and reducing swelling. It’s especially good to eat eggplant when you are experiencing some nasty digestive issues. It relieves stomach pain, helps with dysentery, diarrhea, and painful urinary conditions. Eggplant has also been used topically to treat frostbite and canker sores… talk about a multi-tasking vegetable…
In Chinese medicine, we use tomatoes to aid in digestion and to help detoxify the body. They are also good to combat excess cholesterol, lessen inflammation and curb asthma. Tomatoes can also quench thirst, and they can help fight some kidney infections.
Chickpeas actually help calm the spirit. They relieve anxiety and soothe irritability… it kind of makes you realize why hummus is so popular…
Garlic is amazing in its antiviral and antibacterial capabilities. Garlic is actually a Chinese herb (Da Suan). It’s used to kill toxins and parasites and also to reduce swelling in the body. It’s what I call a great “A” herb: anesthetic, antibacterial, anti fungal, antioxidant, antiviral, etc….
Onions are great for your immune system; they are a natural antihistamine. In the winter, I eat lots and lots of onions… I guess I should feel sorry for the people close to me! Recently, I recommended that a patient with bronchitis put sliced raw onions in her socks when she went to sleep… she woke up so much better; they actually can rid the body of bacteria. (I know I’ve told you this before, but it really is awesome!) Onion is a superhero in the food world!
Basil has anti-viral and anti-bacterial capabilities. It also is good for settling your stomach, and it’s good at lessening the symptoms of the common cold and its accompanying cough. Basil is a spiritual herb — the scent actually calms you; you can boil some in a pot and let the aroma fill the air, you can just leave some around the house, you can toss a bunch in your bath water (I love to do this), or you can use an essential oil with basil to get some great calming effects.
- 3 medium, thin, Japanese eggplant, sliced in half vertically, then sliced horizontally into ¼- to ½- inch thick half moons
- extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the eggplant
- For sauce:
- 1 medium onion, cut in ½, then sliced thin
- 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, smashed
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
- 1 Tbs tomato paste (I love this one -- it comes in a jar!)
- 1 tsp coconut sugar (here's an organic one)
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (here's a good brand)
- additional basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Brush the foil with some oil.
- Lay the eggplant out on the oiled foil. Brush the eggplant with more oil. Sprinkle with salt.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 mins.
- Remove the tray from the oven, fold up the foil around the eggplant, crimping all sides so that the eggplant is completely enclosed, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce:
- Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, use a regular one and then before you put it in the oven, transfer everything to a baking dish.)
- Add the onion to the skillet, and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 mins.
- Add the crushed garlic, and saute, stirring, 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add all the remaining sauce ingredients, except the chickpeas, stir to combine, and simmer, uncovered, 15 mins.
- Stir in the chickpeas and the eggplant.
- Place the skillet in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 50 mins.
- Remove the wilted basil leaves, if you want (I actually like to eat them) and replace them with fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional).