As a kid I was suspicious of anything mock. Mock was a big word in our house and not a popular one with me. There was mock apple pie made of Ritz Crackers..yeah I know. I had a mock Barbie Doll who sort of resembled Barbies' chunkier sister. She had some kind of fakey name but it sure as hell wasn't Barbie. There were mock turtleneck sweaters and "Pleather"and "I Can't Believe It's Not Suede". Whatever. A whole world of not-quite-there There. This was of course, in the bad old days before Faux. Faux is modern. Faux is cool. Mock is just well....not.
While I'm venting here, I may as well bring up another thing that's said frequently. "It tastes just like chicken!"
To me this could mean one of two things. Either it has no taste or it tastes nothing like chicken, and that's putting it mildly. Which brings me to Meatless Monday. For those gotta-be-carnivores, there is nothing that "tastes just like chicken" unless it's chicken. Or, unless it's eggplant.
Eggplant is one of those wonderful vegetables that has all the mouth-feel (love that word) and texture of meat, and picks up flavors and sauces and spices crazy good. No wonder almost every cuisine is in love with eggplant.
There are lots of great eggplant dishes in the Indian Kitchen. One of my particular favorites combines eggplant with yellow peppers, tomato and spinach and almost resembles an Indian ratatouille. It can be a side dish on a non meatless day, but on Meatless Monday this dish rules the table. Pair it with rice or dal and some naan bread or chapattis and you're golden.
This dish was another little gem from Yamuna Devis book Vegetarian Table: India. Paula Wolfert gave me that book for my birthday and I'm loving it.
This dish is made with eggplant, but I'd also suggest trying some other vegetable combos, mix and match, that's the secret. Here are the basics!
There are two steps to this dish, neither of which involve much heavy lifting. The first is The Roast.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel 1 and 1/2 lbs of eggplant. In my case it was one big one.
Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch pieces.
Cut and seed the yellow pepper trim it into strips and then into 1 inch pieces.
In a bowl mix together 1/4 cup of chickpea flour (gram flour) toss in:
1 Tbs of garam masala
1 tsp of turmeric
1 and 1/2 tsp of salt
1 tbs of vegetable oil
1 cup of water.
Then add in the chopped vegetables.
Spray a baking sheet with some non stick spray and spread the vegetables in a single layer. You may need to use more than one baking sheet so all the vegetables are spread out evenly.
Roast the vegetables until they're nice and tender, about 25 minutes or so.
Now for the second step. The Saute.
In a deep skillet or kadhai heat 1 Tbs of vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot, toss in:
1 and 1/2 Tbs brown mustard seeds.
When the seeds start to pop, add in :
2 Tbs of finely minced fresh ginger
1 or 2 (it's your call) seeded finely chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1 Tbs of jaggery (palm sugar) or dark brown sugar
Stir it about for a bit then add in:
2 pounds of chopped seeded peeled Roma tomatoes. (Ok, here I've got to be honest. I didn't peel my tomatoes. Bad Kathy. Lazy Kathy. Wanna know something? It worked just fine anyway. )
1 lb of chopped (or not. lazy again) fresh spinach.
This dish puts together really easily and is a true main dish centerpiece star. I love dishes like that. If there's anything left over, I can tell you it's also great the next day on a non-meat menu as a side dish. This may look like a mock meat main dish but there's sure enough nothing mock about the flavor!