I've been cooking a lot of vegan food for the last three weeks as our friend was preparing for his radiation treatment /isolation period for thyroid cancer. There is a very specific non/low iodine diet that's prescribed for patients, and fortunately most Indian recipes fit comfortably into that slot. My Mission if I chose to accept it was to find interesting and taste tempting treats that could keep our friend's taste buds excited through the three weeks he'd have to be off his regular vegetarian diet and in vegan land. I love a challenge. Sexing up eggplant wasn't exactly like dropping on wires through a deadly laser trap... but for me it was close. Really.
Imagine how much more exciting it would have been for Tom Cruise if he'd had to find a new and interesting way to fix eggplant rather than whatever the hell he was looking for on those wires.
But why the eggplant obsession you may ask? Good question. For one thing, eggplants were on special, and most importantly eggplants have a great texture when preparing any vegetarian or vegan food. Eggplants are up there with mushrooms for providing a nice "meaty" mouth feel.
Most of the eggplant recipes I'd been fixing had been savory with tomato playing a major part. But three weeks in, I was looking to expand eggplant's flavor profile and take it in a different direction. I looked to the north of India. I found an eggplant dish fragrant with cinnamon and cardamom, studded with raisins. I'd found a Mughal Eggplant dish.
The influence of Mughal cooking is strong in the North of India. There's less heat and more aroma. Paula Wolfert and I were talking at the Tuesday Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago about the similarities between Moroccan Food and Indian Food. They use the same spices and many of the same cooking technique. In fact, when we talked about some recipes, they seemed to be virtually the same. I haven't run this one past Paula yet but I'm sure she's going to tell me there's something in the Moroccan kitchen that resembles it.
While turning out a lot of different vegan dishes regularly, I needed dishes that could come together easily with easy to get ingredients. Alan and I are also on a script deadline trying to get our latest piece of work out of the house, so there wasn't the usual amount of time. Enter Mughlai Eggplant.
Here's what to do:
Wash, quarter, and quarter the eggplant again.
When the oil is hot toss in:
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
Stir fry them until the mustard seeds start to pop.
2 onions thinly sliced
The eggplant slices
1/4 tsp of Kashmiri chili or 1/8 tsp of cayenne mixed with 1/8 tsp of paprika
1/2 tsp of coriander
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of cardamom
2 Tbs of chopped cashews
2 Tbs of golden raisins
1 chopped seeded fresh green chili
A 1 inch piece of fresh julienne ginger
Chopped fresh cilantro
There it is. Sweet, spicy (but not too) crunchy eggplant ready as the star of the table in less than an hour. Serve it with rice and some chapatti or dal and another vegetable, or go totally out of the Indian arena and pop it down next to any meat entree. I can tell you from personal experience, it goes just as well with an Italian meat dish.
As for our friend, he had his final scan at the hospital this morning and got his all clear! We couldn't be happier. Thanks to all of you who sent me great hints and dessert recipes during the last three weeks.
Coming up next , once again I go for The Big O for all you Okra Lovers out there. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori