I've been in the process of clearing out my fridge prior to a short trip. Sometimes I think I should have taken that archaeology class; it might help me as I sift through the layers of foodstuffs, in a vain attempt to determine what can be frozen, what needs to be tossed, and what I can throw together into an edible meal before I leave. Everything from grits to mint to egg whites are waiting to have something done with them.
The egg whites - intended for a batch of macarons that I don't have time for - will have to go, but given the lovely summer vegetables, I fixated on my old standby: Indian feast.
Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. I was first introduced to South Asian food at college, where a Bangladeshi student in my house cooked her meals in our communal kitchen almost every day. I followed my nose to the source of the spices, and pretty soon I was eating two or three simple meals of dal and rice a week.
Under her tutelage, I learned about different dishes and developed a real taste for South Asian spices. I find Indian food to be some of the most satisfying vegetarian food available; the warmth and roundness of the spice combinations makes for a very satisfying meal.
As a bonus, it doesn't really matter what is in my fridge - I can find a meal in there.
Baingan Bharta (Smoky Eggplant with Yoghurt)
Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine
2 medium eggplants
2 T ghee or vegetable oil
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1/4 t hing (a.k.a. asafoetida)*
1 1/2 t cumin seeds
1 1/2 t ground coriander seeds
1 t salt
2 T finely chopped mint
2 T finely chopped cilantro
1/2 C yoghurt (full fat is best but not necessary)
1 t garam masala*
smoked salt (optional)
Cook the eggplant on a grill or under a broiler (that's the way I do it), turning regularly with tongs until blackened all over and very tender inside, about 10 minutes in the oven. Let cool, then scoop out the pulp, coarsely chop, and set aside to cool completely.
Heat the ghee in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles, hing, and cumin seeds and stir until the cumin seeds are browned. Add the eggplant, coriander, and salt, and cook until any firm spots are tender and the mixture is very thick, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
Stir in the fresh herb, yoghurt, and garam masala. If you would like a more smoky flavor, stir in a small pinch of smoked salt. Serve warm, cold, or room temperature (I think room temperature or slightly warm is best), with warm flatbread for dipping.
*Available at Indian markets, or online. The hing is optional, but the garam masala is a must. Many people make garam masala at home, but I love the mixture at my local Indian grocery; for a quick substitute in this recipe, use 1/4 t each cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and coriander, plus a grind of pepper if you'd like.
Serves 4 (with additional dishes to round out the meal) or more as a dip