Eggplant Fit for a Queen | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Eggplant Fit for a Queen

Eggplant Fit for a Queen

Vegetarian Mirza Ghasemi in honor of Purim

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Was she a vegetarian? A vegan? There are all sorts of accounts about the diet Queen Esther followed while she lived in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

Some say that in order to keep her Jewish identity secret and stay within kashrut, she didn’t eat any meat and lived only plant-based foods that included produce, legumes, and grains. There are those who say she also allowed herself some dairy products, but others say no, she subsisted only on fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Here’s what we do know for certain: Queen Esther was an extraordinary woman, the heroine of Purim, who outwitted the evil Haman and saved the Jews of ancient Persia from complete annihilation. We have celebrated this remarkable feat ever since. Purim is a joyous holiday, filled with noise and laughter, costumes, and merrymaking.

And of course, food. Hamantashen for sure. It is the iconic Purim festival food, particularly when filled with poppy seeds, which Queen Esther apparently favored. Kreplach, pastry-wrapped eggs, and a variety of dishes featuring beans and legumes are traditional too.

But if you wish to try something new to feast on during Purim this year (which begins at sundown on February 28th), how about honoring Queen Esther with Mirza Ghasemi, a classic vegetarian dish from Iran? It’s hearty enough for dinner, although you can also serve it with crackers as a snack or hors d’oeuvre. This dish is made with roasted eggplant that you mash and mix with sautéed garlic, onions, and tomatoes. It’s gently seasoned with turmeric and a bit of crushed red pepper to give it some heat (you can omit the pepper if you prefer mild food). In order to form solid pieces of egg, be sure to add the beaten eggs in a stream. Do not stir for 30-40 seconds so that the eggs can set. Then stir slowly so that pieces of cooked egg can form rather than be completely blended into the vegetables.

Another way to make Mirza Ghasemi is Shakshuka style: instead of mixing in the beaten eggs, add cracked eggs on top of the vegetables, cover the pan, and cook until the eggs are set. In either case, serve the dish with flatbread; add a salad if you need more.

Mirza Ghasemi – Persian Eggplant

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