Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Garden to Table, Bengali 5 Spice Eggplant, An Indian Take On Ratatouille.

5 spice vegetables
   I love Fall weather here in Sonoma, we still have warm days, yet the nights get chillier and chillier as we edge toward Deep Fall and Winter. This time of year always brings with it my very favorite vegetables, not the least among them Butternut Squash. When we planted our garden this year one of the first things I knew I wanted was Butternut Squash. It's one of the most versatile vegetable out there. I make soup, curries, ravioli filling, and koftas among other things. In my kitchen it runs the gamut from Indian food to Italian favorites for the family holidays.
   The Indian kitchen  has many recipes that call for squash and pumpkin. These two vegetables are pretty much interchangeable; most of the canned pumpkin we find in the markets is actually butternut squash.

    In fact Lord Google says: canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as jack-o'-lanterns for decoration around Halloween.

Experiments with pumpkins can be spotty at best. I have stuffed and baked large whole pumpkins no problem, but when it comes to smaller items like vegetarian side dishes, curries, and koftas I prefer to rely on butternut squash.
   Our butternut squash harvest this year is immense!! Two plants have sent runners and squashes all over the backyard in a colonizing pattern. Harvesting is like tippy toeing through a mine field. I don't want to step on the squash or trip over the vines.  So, I carefully harvested a likely looking specimen.

Eggplants are bidding a fond farewell to the garden so we're using them up quickly along with the serrano chilies which are turning red. This is a real "use up what one has on hand" dish.

   I used eggplant, butternut squash, and potato, but you might try zucchini, pumpkin, whatever you have plenty of. Like the traditional French Ratatouille, this is a simple stewed vegetable dish but instead of adding the usual French spices, the Bengalis make their vegetable stew with a mixture of 5 spices, aka Panch Phoran , and there is the difference. A Panch Phoran is a mixture of roasted and ground spices, found in the Eastern regions of India, particularly Bangladesh. This is a great spice mixture to have on hand so make a bunch. Once your spices are toasted and mixed you're in business for future dishes.

Bengali 5 Spice Eggplant

Here's What You Need:
1 Eggplant
1 Butternut squash
1 large boiling potato ( I used a Yukon Gold)
2 dried red chilies broken in half (I use chile arbol from Rancho Gordo Foods)
1 Tbs Bengali 5 Spice Mixture *
2 Tbs vegetable oil. I use coconut oil
2 Tbs chopped fresh curry leaves. (if you don't have these leave them out for there is no substitute)
5 cups of mixed vegetables (eggplant pumpkin, squash, peas) cut up into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of peas fresh, or defrosted frozen
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Make your five spice blend.

* Bengali 5 Spice Mixture (aka Panch Phoran mixture)
 Mix together
2/3 cup cumin seeds

1/3 cup fennel seeds
1/4 cup black mustard seeds

3 Tbs kalongi,aka nigella, aka black onion seeds
2 Tbs fenugreek seeds

Heat a cast iron pan
when the pan is hot put al of the spices in it.

Stir them around dry roasting them until they turn warm and fragrant. This takes about 2 minutes.
Let them cook then store them in an airtight jar.

This will make a LOT more of this spice mix than you need, so save it for other dishes. Bingo, Panch phoran!   Now back to the recipe.

Peel and cut your potato...


...and butternut squash into 1 inch pieces.

Mix the raw vegetables together and set them aside.
Take your chopped curry leaves, and  2 dried red chilies broken in half and set them aside.

In a skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil. I use Sonoma Harvest Organic Coconut Oil

When the oil is hot, toss in the dried red chili pieces.
Stir them around until they start to tuirn color, about 30 sconds is allit takes if you oil is hot.
Add the 5 spice powder (NOTE: You can grind the Tbs of spice powder before you add it, though I prefer to use the spices whole for this recipe.)

Add the chopped curry leaves and vegetables right away.

Stir everything around and cook the vegetables until they start to turn golden.

This takes about 10 minutes. If you need to add a bit more oil, to keep things from sticking, go ahead.
Once the vegetables have cooked down add the  paprika...

...salt, and sugar.

Mix it all together, turn down the heat and put a lid on things. If you are adding fresh peas put them in now. Cook for about 10 minutes. Check it every once in a while to stir things up make sure nothing's burning. If things start to get too dry you can add about 1/4 cup of water. About 5 minutes before you're done cooking; add the defrosted frozen peas if that's the type you're using.

When everything is tender; put it in a dish, chop the cilantro and sprinkle it over the vegetables and serve it up.

this is a delicious and simple dish than can be made with a lot of different vegetables: Just use what you have on hand. It goes from garden to table in about 1/2 hour and you can't beat that for healthy, fast food. Coming up next, something sweet. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

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