When it comes to spicy foods, I break them down into two categories. The first is that super hot pepper, like a habanero, that ranks high on the Scoville scale and makes you sweat, and swear, profusely. I don’t enjoy these. Not because I can’t take a little peppery heat, but because the pain of eating them is so overwhelming that I can’t taste any flavor. It’s just hot for the sake of being hot. Not my thing!
Then there are spice blends that throw off some heat, but not so much that it gets in the way of your ability to savor the actual flavor of the spices. Not too hot. Not too bland. It’s just right! That’s what berbere is for me. It’s a blend of many spices that is the foundation of many Ethiopian dishes. The main spice is cayenne pepper, combined with smaller amounts of fenugreek, allspice, cardamom, cloves, ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. Milder versions include a large amount of paprika. I’m lucky to have easy access to an Ethiopian market that sells what I think is a perfect berbere – not too hot, but just right. If you don’t have access to a pre-made blend, check out this recipe that appears to be close to what I use.
Because the berbere does all the heavy lifting in the flavor department, this dish is very easy to prep (with the help of some store-bought ingredients!). From start to finish, it only takes about 20 – 25 minutes. Dinner is served!
Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)
1 14-ounce can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (unsalted)
5 ounces chopped kale (I used Trader Joe’s pre-cut tuscan kale)
1 medium eggplant (medium dice)
1 sweet onion (medium dice)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons berbere powder
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
- Saute the onion and chili flakes in oil over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients, except kale, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Make sure to push the eggplant down so that it is covered with liquid.
- Add kale, cover and cook another 5 minutes until kale is wilted, but not soggy.
- Serve hot.