Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eggplant with Tamarind

I love eggplant, be it the thin Japanese one, a fat Italian or the small striped Thai. Every variety cooks up differently. Roasted, sauteed or fried, they turn into tasty accompaniments. Today I make a vegetable with the common Italian eggplant. The recipe calls for small diced pieces to be deep fried till crisp and brown. Fried eggplant soaks up oil too fast..no no...not going down that path! I cut thick slices, spray them with canola oil and let them brown in a nonstick skillet. The slices don't need to cook all the way through but just develop a crusty exterior. Cooled, they are cut into small chunks. I think this way is genius! No more deep frying! 

The eggplant goes into a spice mixture of onion seeds, cumin, red chiles, curry leaves, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried coconut, ketchup, spices and tamarind. It sounds like I have emptied the contents of my spice cupboard into the pan!!!  It is a long list but when you are done the eggplant takes on a sweet and sour bent...intriguing flavors that make this side come alive.

Serves 4

1 large Italian Eggplant 
Canola Oil Spray
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Kalonji or Onion Seeds
2 dried Red Chiles
10-15 Curry Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
3 slices of Ginger
1 tablespoon Sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon Poppy Seeds
2 teaspoons Dried Coconut Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
3 tablespoons Tomato Ketchup 
3  tablespoons dried Tamarind or 2 teaspoons Tamarind paste
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Fresh Cilantro 

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium flame.

Spray slices with canola spray and lay them spray side down in skillet. Let slices brown for a few minutes. Spray the tops and flip and brown.  Finish all the slices in this manner.

Once slices are cool chop them into small chunks and keep aside.

If you are using dried tamarind, place tamarind in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water. Zap tamarind for a minute. Remove from microwave and strain so you are left with a thick sauce and no seeds or pulp.

Heat remaining canola oil in the same pan.

When oil is hot drop kalonji, cumin, red chiles, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds into oil. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds.

Lower flame and add garlic paste, ginger slices, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coconut, chile powder, turmeric, ketchup, strained tamarind water or paste, sugar and salt. Bring sauce to a low boil.

Add eggplant chunks to sauce, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes till eggplant is fully cooked.

Top with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with bread or roti.

The eggplant sits alongside meat, rice and dal. It turns into a luscious side, balancing the spicy flavors of meat. Kalonji, fenugreek and curry leaves impart a pickle-like piquancy, making it pair well with chappatti and rice. Either way this eggplant is a palate pleaser.