Beirut tonight is in effervescence: it is the week-end for Eid Al-Fitr, the celebration that seals the end of Ramadan. The streets in some neighborhoods are lit up with twinkling lights and everyone is rushing about ordering massive amounts of pastries at the well-known shops in town. I had to stop by one of them, Taj El-Muluk (taj means crown and muluk means kings) and stare at the pastries on display.
This dish was born out of profound laziness: I wanted to make a delicious but time-consuming pickled eggplant dish called makdous; I just did not want to spend five days on it. I had to come up with something that could be made in less than an hour.
NOTE: If you can obtain fresh pomegranate juice, it would make a difference. I got mine at a juice place called El-Intabli, a hole-in-the-wall, but with excellent juices, all freshly-made.
- 1 1/2 pounds small eggplants
- olive oil, as needed
- 2/3 cups of walnuts
- one or two kaak
- 6 large cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of fresh pomegranate juice
- 1 Tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
- salt, pepper (I used pink peppercorns), to taste
- 1 red chili pepper
- Peel the eggplants. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for a while. Mash the garlic with salt, chop the walnuts and grind the kaak or crackers. Mix the walnuts, mashed garlic and kaak into a paste. Set aside.
- Wipe the eggplants clean. Heat some olive oil (feel free to be generous) and drop the eggplants in the oil; fry gently on all sides until the eggplants are deeply brown and when pierced with a knife feel very soft. Remove from the oil and set on paper towels. Cool them a couple of minutes then using a small spoon and a knife, slit each eggplant and insert a teaspoon of walnut/garlic/kaak mixture into the eggplant. Close the opening gently and place the eggplants in the pot side by side.
- Pour the pomegranate juice, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses and a few peppercorns in the pot. Place the chili pepper in the sauce; bring to a simmer and let it boil very gently about 20 to 30 minutes, covered first then uncovered for the last 10 minutes. The sauce will get syrupy.
- Serve with pita bread either warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: If you have extra stuffing, you can throw it in the pot on the sauce. It will give the sauce a little texture. Kaak is a type of dry breadstick, similar to a grissini covered with sesame seeds; they are sold at all middle-eastern grocers; it can be substituted with a few crackers, preferably wholemeal with sesame seeds.