This Monday (Καθαρή Δευτέρα or Clean Monday) signaled the start of Lent, a period of fasting and spiritual contemplation meant to cleanse one’s soul in anticipation of Easter and the resurrection of Christ.
As such this week’s daily menu involves simple, traditional Greek fare enjoyed by many this time of year. Staples include Taramosalata, olives, Halva, lots of simply prepared Horta (leafy greens), plenty of legumes and beans, Gemista (rice-stuffed peppers and tomatoes) and Ladera (fresh vegetables braised in a simple tomato sauce).
I purchased three large, deep purple eggplant the other day and set to work Tuesday to braise this hearty vegetable with tomato and red wine. Although three large eggplant may sound like a lot, beware that it quickly cooks down. This dish can serve six as a main course alongside some rice pilaf, bulgur or orzo; it can also serve 8 to 10 as a side dish accompanying your favorite meat.
The foods of Lent may be minimal and simply prepared, but they are by no means lacking in taste. So, stay tuned for more Lenten dishes so full of flavor you’ll probably want to enjoy them throughout the year. Καλή Σαρακοστή!
Μελιτζάνα με Nτομάτα και Kόκκινο Kρασί–Eggplant Braised with Tomato and Red Wine
Makes 6 main course servings or 8 to 10 side dish servings
3 large eggplant, cubed into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup red wine
Thyme leaves stripped from 2 sprigs
15 ounces chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dilute the tomato paste in the 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water and then set aside. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper and add it to the hot olive oil. Brown the eggplant briefly until golden then add the onion, garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes; saute until the onion is softened. Turn the heat to high and stir in the wine. Boil for a minute then add the chopped tomatoes, the diluted tomato paste and sugar. Stir to combine, then lower the heat to a simmer.
Cover the pot and continue to cook about 40 to 45 minutes until the eggplant is quite tender. Alternatively, place the dutch oven or oven-proof pot in a pre-heated 375-degree oven and bake about 40 to 45 minutes.