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Tebsi baitinjan (Iraqi eggplant stew)

March 2, 2011

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Serves 6

1 pound eggplant, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
Salt, to taste
Canola oil (for frying)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
1 large onion, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
1 each green and red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
3 large tomatoes, two cored and sliced into 1-inch rounds, one pureed
1 pound beef top round, sliced against the grain into 8 one-inch-thick strips
1 large clove garlic, cut into 8 pieces
2/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup water, or more if necessary
2 teaspoons Iraqi bharaat (see recipe)

1. In a large bowl, place the eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Fill the bowl with cold water, cover with an inverted plate to keep the eggplant from floating. Set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

2. In a deep pan over high heat, heat 2 inches of oil. When the oil reaches 360 degrees on a deep fat thermometer, fry the eggplant and potatoes in batches for 2 minutes, turning, until they are golden. Use tongs to transfer them to paper towels. Fry the onion for 90 seconds; drain. Fry the bell peppers for 1 minute; drain. Fry 1 of the tomatoes for 15 seconds; drain. Fry the beef for 30 seconds or until just browned; drain in a bowl to catch the juices.

3. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the oil to a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon bharaat, the pureed tomato, and juices from the bowl of meat. Turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

4. Set the oven at 400 degrees. In a large flameproof casserole, spread the remaining uncooked tomato slices. Add layers of beef and vegetables, sprinkle a pinch of the remaining spice mixture and salt on each layer. Pour the tomato sauce on top. If necessary, pour enough water in at the edge to come just below the top layer. Slide a spatula around the edges of the pot to distribute the sauce to the bottom. Press down gently on the top with a spatula.

5. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Let the stew rest for 30 minutes before serving over rice.

Adapted from “Day of Honey’’