***Below is a guest post from Sandi, our culinary & cultural explorer-abroad in India***
So, I like eggplant when I’m in the States. But when I wanted to get an eggplant here in India, I was shocked. They’re everywhere… little Italian ones, striped, huge bulbous rich purple ones... I am in eggplant heaven… and I was inspired to figure out how eggplants work in the Indian diet.
I’m lucky enough to have a job where a young woman, Renuka, comes in and helps me out at home (cause I don’t speak but a few words of Hindi, and those in my neighborhood don’t speak but a few words of English). So I bought a lovely, fresh, farm direct eggplant and I held it up for Renuka. She inspected it and smiled. “Ban-ghel masala? Yes. Ban-ghel masala,” she said.
Then she did this:
1.Roast the eggplant: Cut the large eggplant in half and slice the insides crossways deeply, without cutting the skin. Sprinkle with salt (being sure to get salt down into the cuts) and let it sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze the excess water out gently. Brush with olive oil. Put some fresh cilantro on a pan and put the eggplant face down on top of it. Put the pan in the oven for about an hour at 400 degrees. Allow to cool just slightly and spoon meat out of the eggplant skin. Set aside.
2.Chop up green peppers, tomatoes, tiny hot peppers, cilantro and garlic to your taste. Heat oil in a pan and saute the hot peppers in the oil. You can leave them in if you like it hot…but take them out (just flavoring the oil) if you just like a little heat. Then add some garam masala or curry to the oil and stir until it smells awesome. Saute the chopped veg in the oil until soft, then add the eggplant and saute until blended and heated through.
It’s a squishy mess, but wow… the eggplant is cooling and light and the hot of the pepper is refreshing. I usually eat it with roti, but I’m going to try it with basmati rice next time.