1-1/2 pounds baby eggplant (3 or 4), or an equivalent weight of Japanese eggplant, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 medium to large zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into ¾-inch slices
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried mint
2 tablespoons chili powder
½ tablespoon ancho chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon mild smoked paprika
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a quarter teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread on the baking sheet and roast until the pieces are just browning, about 30 minutes. Take the pan from the oven and set it aside.
While the eggplant roasts, put the cumin and fennel seeds into a small skillet. Turn the heat to medium, and toast the seeds, shaking every 30 seconds or so. Within a few minutes you’ll smell them and you’ll see a little bit of smoke. Pour the seeds onto a plate and let them cool.
While you’re toasting the seeds, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the zucchini and a little salt and pepper and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just soft. Add a little more oil if you need it while the zucchini cooks. Remove the zucchini to a bowl (the one you mixed the eggplant in is fine). Add 4 more tablespoons of oil to the pot and saute the onion, bell peppers, and garlic, along with the oregano and mint, for about 10 minutes.
After a couple of minutes, grind the toasted cumin and fennel seeds in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. When the onions and peppers are soft but not browned, add the ground seeds to the pot, along with the chili powders, the cayenne, smoked paprika, and a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat for a minute or so, stirring constantly. It should all smell wonderful. Add the vegetable stock and scrape up the bottom of the pan to incorporate any spices that stuck there. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the pot.
Add the beans and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and taste for salt and pepper. Simmer for another 20 minutes. Taste again and add more lemon juice if needed. Serve hot or slightly warm with cheese, sour cream, and pickled jalapeño slices.