Baked Eggplant, Chickpeas, and Tomatoes

    A myth has developed that says that eggplant must be salted before it is cooked in order to remove its bitterness and/or cut down on its absorption of oil during cooking. I have cooked eggplant in myriad ways and have experimented with both the salted and unsalted methods; I hereupon declare that it makes no difference. I no longer salt eggplant and I have never had a bitter one, nor has the eggplant absorbed any more or less oil as a result. I like to serve crusty bread with the eggplant casserole so that it can be used to mop up all the delicious juices.

    SERVES 4

    1 large eggplant (about 1ВЅ pounds)

    5 tablespoons oil

    2 medium onions, diced

    4 cloves garlic, minced

    16-ounce can diced tomatoes, well drained

    16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

    Salt to taste

    Liberal seasoning freshly ground pepper

    в…“ cup minced fresh parsley

    1. Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Peel the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into ВЅ-inch thicknesses. Cut these slices into ВЅ-inch strips then cubes.
    2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is very hot but not yet smoking add enough eggplant just to make one layer. (You will probably have to do 2 batches, so as not to overcrowd the eggplant.) Fry the eggplant, tossing regularly, until it is browned and tender, though not mushy.
    3. Remove the cubes to a platter, put 2 more tablespoons of the oil in the skillet, and when very hot fry the next batch of eggplant in the same manner. Remove to the platter.
    4. Put 1 more tablespoon of oil in the skillet and saut the onions and garlic until the onions are tender, not mushy, about 5 minutes.
    5. Add the drained tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and eggplant and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, and cook 5 more minutes. Spoon into a medium baking dish and stir in the parsley. May be prepared and chilled up to 24 hours in advance. Bring to room temperature before baking.
    6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.