Couscous with Eggplant
Couscous, a staple food of many North African countries eventually was introduced into western Sicily by settlers from nearby Tunisia and became a common dish in Trapani, which is also famous for its saltpans. Couscous is hand rolled pinpoint size granules of moistened hard wheat semolina. Some Arab countries like Tunisia also make them the size of small peas. In Trapani I was served couscous with fish and seafood, although it is also served with meat and seafood combinations and lots of aromatic spices.
These tiny pellets are making a big comeback on the American food scene and creative chefs are using it for everything from main dishes to dessert.
Traditional couscous requires a lot of prep time and is usually steamed. But you can purchase already made good quality couscous. One of my favorite ways to serve it is stuffed into baked eggplant; it makes a great entrée and a nice departure from the ordinary. Use individual small size eggplant or a large one.
Couscous with Eggplant
2 cups chicken broth
Zest and juice of one large lemon
4 small size eggplant (about 8 ounces each)
1 small onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons peanut oil or olive oil plus extra for the pan
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste
Grinding black pepper
1 cup shredded aged Provolone cheese
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium size saucepan. Stir in the couscous; turn off the heat and cover. Allow the couscous to absorb all the broth, and then stir in the zest and lemon juice. The couscous should be fluffy and cooked.
Transfer the couscous to a medium size bowl and set aside.
Trim the eggplant stems and discard them. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.
With a knife score the eggplant and carefully remove the pieces, leaving at least a ¼ inch thick wall and base. Finely chop the pieces and set aside. Set the shells in a lightly oiled baking dish. Set aside.
On a cutting board chop the onion, garlic and parsley together.
Pour the oil into a medium size sauté pan and cook the onion mixture for a couple of minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and tomato paste and continue cooking for a minute or two. Add the eggplant and coat in the onion mixture. If the pan seems dry, add a little more oil.
Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium and cook the mixture until the eggplant is very soft.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Transfer the eggplant mixture to the bowl with the couscous and combine the ingredients well. Add the cinnamon and salt pepper to taste.
Pack the mixture into the eggplant halves. Divide and sprinkle the cheese over the tops of each half and drizzle the tops with a little olive oil.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake just until the mixture is heated through.