For three years I was a vegetarian, not from any political or environmental stance, but because I was in love with a vegetarian.

It just seemed simpler to cook vegetarian since we were together so much even though vegetables-except cooked spinach and fresh tomatoes-had never been something I’ve gravitated toward.  Vegetables were side dishes, not the center attraction.

But I love to cook and so threw myself into discovering as many interesting ways of preparing vegetables as I could.

Eggplant fans is a vegetarian delight and a recipe I retained long after the relationship ended.  It is great served hot from the oven and even better the next day served at room temperature or even cold.

Eggplants — technically fruit, not vegetable — are just showing up in outdoor markets and in the supermarket.  If you can, get the smaller, long ones for this recipe because they make a better presentation and are easier to serve.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 or 5 small eggplant, about 5  inches long
  • 3 medium size onions
  • 1 medium size bottle or can of  marinated artichoke hearts in oil
  • 8 small tomatoes
  • 2 dozen Kalamata olives, pits removed
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ½ oregano
  • ½ basil
  • ½ tsp fennel
  • ½ tarragon
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • S&P to taste
  • 1 can of anchovies (optional)

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the onions into thin slices.  Chop the garlic into a fine mince.

Put a slick of olive oil on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish large enough to comfortably hold the eggplant when each is halved without squashing it.

Take half the onions and half the garlic and cover the bottom of the baking dish.

Wash eggplant, cut off both ends and then cut in half lengthwise.  With skin side up, slice through the eggplants lengthwise, making sure that the slices remain attached to the stem end.  These are the fans.

Cut tomatoes in half stem to stern, then turn these on their sides, again, skin side up and make thin slices from these.  Insert the tomato slices, again, skin side up, in the openings in the eggplant until all are stuffed.

Gather the eggplant in you hand to close the fan and place on top of the onion garlic mix.

Tuck anchovies into open spaces in the fans if you wish.  I love them but they’re optional for people who don’t like them.

Distribute artichoke hearts among the eggplant. Pour the red wine over this mixture.  Sprinkle on all the herbs and spices; tuck in the bay leaf.

Cover with the remainder of the onions and garlic.  Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for an hour and a half.

Check to see whether most of the moisture has disappeared.  If not cook for an additional 10 minutes until most of it has disappeared.

You can serve this as a side or make it a main dish by adding plain spaghetti and a little store bought tomato sauce.  In winter, this makes a nice side to lamb chops or roast lamb.

Till next time.

Melkam  Megeb.  Bon appetit.  Buen provecho. Mànmàn chī! Guten Appetit!  Dober tek!  Selamat makan! Nush olsun! Svādiṣṭ khānā