Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Stew with Chickpeas

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Serves 6

Ingredients

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 large eggplants ( 3 pounds )

* 1 bulb garlic

* 2 red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed

* 1 white onion, sliced into thin half moons

* 3 cloves garlic, minced

* 1/2 cup white wine or veggie broth

* 2 tsp dried tarragon

* 1 tsp dried thyme

* 1 tsp ground coriander

* 1/2 tsp paprika

* 1 tsp salt

* Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

* 2 bay leaves

* 1 ( 28 ounce ) can whole peeled tomatoes

* 1 ( 15 ounce ) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

Directions

1. Arrange two oven racks so that one is in the upper third and the other is in the lower third. You're probably not going to be able to fit both of your pans on one rack. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and slice across into 3/4 inch slices.

2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with baking parchment and brush the parchment with the olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on the baking sheets and brush or spray the tops with olive oil. Leave a little room on one pan for the peppers. Brush the outsides of the peppers with olive oil and place them, cut side down, on the pan.

Remove the papery skins from the garlic bulb ( as much skin as will come off easily ). Place the garlic on one of the pans as well. Place the pans in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

3. Remove the pans from the oven. Place the red pepper in a paper or plastic bag and close up the bag ( so that the pepper skins steam off ). Flip the eggplant pieces and brush a little oil on any pieces that look dry ( they should be fairly browned, albeit unevenly ).

4. Return the eggplant to the oven for an additional 15 minutes and remove the garlic, setting it aside to cool. The garlic should have been in for 40 minutes, but if you did the eggplant flipping with lighting speed, give the garlic a few more minutes to bake.

5. On the stove top, preheat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in 1 Tb of olive oil for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. The eggplant should be ready while the onion is browning, so remove the eggplant from the oven and set it aside ( if you are running out of counter space, use tongs to transfer the eggplant to a bowl ).

6. Add the garlic to the onions and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the white wine and herbs and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tearing up each tomato with your hands before adding to the pot, and add the remaining tomato juice from the can.

Add the eggplant to the pot and mix well. Don't be afraid of crushing the eggplant; in fact it's good if it gets a little crushed.

7. Remove the peppers from the bag and peel away the skin. If for some reason the skin won't peel, don't sweat it. Chop the peppers into bite-size pieces and add to the soup pot along with the chickpeas. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

8. To prepare the garlic, wet your hands ( to avoid sticking ) and squeeze each roasted garlic clove into the soup pot. Mix well, turn off the heat, and let the stew sit for as long as you can stand to let the flavors to develop.

Serve!

Soft Poppy-Seed Polenta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

* 5 cups vegetable broth or water

* 1/2 tsp salt

* 1 cup polenta corn grits ( polenta )

* 2 Tb olive oil

* 2 tsp poppy seeds

Directions

1. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium size saucepan. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, mixing as you pour it. Add the poppy seeds and olive oil, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring often. Turn off the heat and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally.