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Steamed Eggplant with Herbed Couscous and Rose Harissa Chickpeas and Onions

Though this started out as a refrigerator clear-out dish, this was a superlative vegetarian dinner. Steaming the eggplant turns it custardy in texture, and the spices and harissa permeate the dish with a lovely fragrance and subtle heat.

1/2 an eggplant, from an eggplant cut lengthwise, stem removed

1/4 cup couscous

1/3 can chickpeas, drained

1/3 small white onion, peeled and sliced into half moons

2 Tbsps chopped herbs of your choice (I used a mixture of cilantro, mint and Italian parsley because that is what I had in the fridge)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

2 tsps olive oil

Rose harissa or harissa to taste

Salt to taste

Place the eggplant in a steamer laid over boiling water. Cover and steam until very tender. I used a rather large eggplant half and steamed it for eighteen minutes; a smaller eggplant would need less time so check at the twelve minute mark by poking the eggplant with a fork. When cooked through, remove from the heat and set aside, still covered, while you prepare the chickpeas and the couscous.

Place the chopped herbs and the spices, along with a generous pinch of salt, in a bowl. Measure the couscous on top of that, and add just enough boiling water to cover. Cover the bowl with a small plate and set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and a small pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions have started to soften, a couple of minutes.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir to combine with the onions. Stir in the harissa. I used a generous half teaspoon rose harissa, which has a more subtle heat than regular harissa, so add a bit at a time and taste until you get the level of heat you desire if you are using regular harissa. Stir to combine with the onions and chickpeas.

Gently remove the eggplant from the steamer and place, skin side down, on a serving plate.

Remove the dish covering the couscous, and stir the couscous well with a fork to fluff it up and to combine the herbs and spices with it. Spoon it over the eggplant.

Spoon the chickpea and onion mixture onto the top of that, making sure that you get as much of the spiced oil left in the pan and drizzle that over the dish.

It occurred to me after eating that I could have stirred some chopped preserved lemon or preserved lemon paste into the couscous, and added a dollop of labneh to the dish at the end, both things that I will do next time I make this. In the meantime, it was exceedingly yummy as is.


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