eggplant 4 kindsEven though back in the day, people didn’t eat much meat–it was too expensive, and only for special occasions–they did tend to put a little into everything. A cassoulet was mostly beans, with a sausage and pieces of pork and/or duck thrown in for flavor, not the current equation of a duck leg plus sausage plus pork per person. I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to re-adapt classic dishes using only vegetables.

This kind of cooking doesn’t require a recipe. It’s about process, which works whether you are cooking for two or 20. If you put in two onions instead of one, it will still be delicious. It isn’t like baking, where if you put in two eggs instead of one it might not turn out.

In the final installment of vegetarian dinner party recipes, we feature the main dish: a daube of eggplant and chickpeas. I considered including mushrooms, but then didn’t. You certainly can; you even can replace the eggplant with mushrooms completely. I chose eggplant because it acts a lot like meat (mushrooms do the same). There are good-sized pieces (I went for inch cubes). The mouth feel is similar to well-cooked meat. It’s filling. It plays well with other ingredients. eggplant japaneseThe chickpeas were for protein, though in light of the eggs and cheese in the other dishes, we weren’t going to be short in that department.

A daube is a kind of stew, but the liquid is not as thick as stews you might know. It’s also not as liquid, more of a sauce than a soup. It’s great for entertaining because it cooks low and slow for a long time. It simmers away independently while you attend to other things. And if guests are late or the apéritifs last longer than you expected, no problem–it isn’t something that has to go into and come out of the oven on time and be served immediately. It can wait another 10, 20, 30 minutes. It can wait an hour. A daube lets your dinner party follow its own schedule, follow its own heart.

For some reason, calling something la daube is an insult, to mean bad quality. According to le Figaro, the word daube dates to the 16th century, coming from the Italian word dobba, or marinate. Then some folks around Lyon used the term to speak of rotten fruits and meat, and thus it became an insult. So unfair!IMG_3100Daube aux Aubergines et Pois Chiches (Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

serves 4

2 medium eggplants (one per two guests), cut into inch cubes

8 oz. (250 g) chickpeas (I used canned; if you use dry chickpeas, you need to cook them first), drained

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

5 oz. (140 g) can of tomato paste

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, oregano…)

Fresh parsley

Generously salt the eggplant cubes and place in a colander. Let them sit and sweat for about an hour, then rinse quickly and squeeze the liquid out with your hands.

In a heavy pot with a tight lid, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat, then add the onion. Cover so the onion sweats but doesn’t brown/burn. Add the garlic. When the onion is transparent, turn up the heat a little and add the eggplant, letting it brown a bit, so you get that carmelized umami.

Add the wine and tomato paste, stirring well to mix them. Raise the heat so it starts to boil, then turn down the heat to as low as possible. Stir in the chickpeas and cover the pot. I separated the parsley leaves from the stems, reserving the leaves for garnish and chopping the stems, which I also stirred into the stew. Let it simmer (mijoter) for at least 45 minutes. Stir from time to time, letting the liquid on the lid fall back into the pot. That’s a good time to check the seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. If the daube seems dry, add water (or wine). Taste a piece of eggplant–it should feel cooked, but you don’t want it to cook to the point of turning into mush. If you’re making it in the morning, you can turn it off and warm it up later.

One way to do a slow-cooking dish like this, besides in a slow cooker or a crockpot, is to put it in the oven. Make sure the lid is tight, and you don’t have to stir at all. Because I made this during the heat wave, I avoided the oven.

Serve with rice. Polenta works, too. Even potatoes. Something to soak up the sauce.

At our dinner party, our friend brought homemade desserts. I’ve shared both recipes before–baba au rhum and crème catalan.

IMG_3965
Baba au rhum

 

 

 

 

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23 thoughts on “A Vegetarian Take on a French Classic

  1. I’ve LOVED this dinner party series! My sister is a vegetarian, so these are VERY handy for family events. I also love suggestions for parties that can be made in advance, and then are just fine if you linger over appetizers for an extra half-hour (or hour!) We’re also AWASH with eggplants around here at the moment – VERY tempted by the gorgeous ones at the farmer’s market, but was wondering what to do with them…wondering no more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, my mouth is watering and it’s only 9:00 am…long time to dinner🤣 Few years back I use to grow eggplants, so delicious! What I love about vegetarian dishes is that there are perfect summer dishes because they cook fast. Basically any veggie would be fully cooked in 20 min or so. Beans are good from the can. Have you ever made ratatouille?

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    1. I make ratatouille all the time. There’s a recipe on the blog. My kid hates eggplant except in this dish and in ratatouille. I guess the sauces cover its bitterness. White eggplant is less bitter….

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      1. I’ll look for it, thank you! My husband is the same, he doesn’t like the bitterness and the seeds. I roast eggplants over an open fire, peel them, let them drain and make an eggplant spread with olive oil, chopped onion, salt and maybe a clove or two of garlic. It’s delicious with french baguette, great appetizer IMHO.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Similar but not quite the same. My recipe is more European than Middle Eastern : no lemon juice, tahini or herbs. Only olive oil, salt, finely chopped red onion, garlic and maybe a spoon full of mayo. It is a traditional Romanian recipe.

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  3. I made something similar – but swifter – the other day and agree wholeheartedly about the value of the aubergine if you do not eat meat. Combined with mushrooms you get a satisfying savoury sensation. And the humble chickpea…we have many, many, many in freezer, in storage jars, in bags. There is a world of difference between food made with vegetables and legumes and ‘vegetarian’ food which is often pretending to be meat. One is delicious. Terrine looks good too.

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  4. I’ve been enjoying your veggie recipes! Hot-house vegetables means there are indeed some eggplants at the greengrocery right now, but not the gorgeous summer assortment, yet the daube here is very delicious year-round and its North African cousin, the tagine, gets a whirl from time-to-time in our kitchen.

    Italian and French cooking of the peasant variety is in the main vegetarian with just a nugget of something meaty, for flavour!, so will always be a trap for the unsuspecting travelling vegetarian. While I’m basically an omnivore, I’m not eating meat as much these days as it has become quite expensive (read Very Expensive!) during our prolonged drought. Which reminds me, how is the heatwave going? I love the picture of the Carcassonne parasol alley!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right—even the salads have some kind of meat, like lardons.
      The heat wave lasted about four days and wasn’t nearly as severe as farther north. It’s now summery hot by day (low 30s C) and fresh and lovely at night (around 14-15C). Perfect summer weather with nary a cloud in the deep blue sky. And chez vous?

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  5. Oo, sounds delightful! Winter is trundling along in its inimitable style in Sydney – blue skies and very mild this year. I haven’t worn a scarf in weeks! It’s going to get up to 21 degrees for 15 minutes later today. Crazy talk!

    Liked by 1 person

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