05 September 2012

Indian Spiced Eggplant with Peas

Yesterday was official "back to school day" or la rentrée here in France. I've blogged about this phenomenon before. For the past week or so people have been little by little coming back from August vacations and getting back to work routine. Businesses have been opening again, neighborhoods have been filling back up with Parisians and people have been getting together with friends they missed over the summer. Although I hit the ground running with last week's 14-hour-days full of theater rehearsals, this week marks a return to the usual routine: some babysitting, teaching a few theater classes and continuing rehearsals for this year's plays.

It's also back to making delicious food from whatever the CSA throws our way week to week. Recently, I got a bunch of eggplants, both the classic purple kind and the white kind - I can only assume this is how the veggie got its name because they actually do resemble eggs. I'm not a big fan of eggplant and neither is D. (Send your delicious recipes my way, please.) My usual response when I don't like a vegetable is to put Indian spices on it. I mean, I'll eat pretty much anything once you add cumin, turmeric and eggplant is no exception. I discovered this recipe four or five years ago on the blog Orangette and it's been my go-to eggplant recipe ever since! And to top it off, it has peas in it and I LOVE peas.

(makes about 4 servings)

2 large eggplants (or 3-4 small)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded (or not depending on how spicy you want it) and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 or 5 curry leaves (optional)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (out of season, canned tomatoes work too)
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 cup frozen peas
 ¾ cup chopped cilantro (I leave this out and sometimes garnish w/ chopped scallions at the end, but if you like cilantro, go for it)
1/3 - ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt (if you're feeling fancy, you can also use cream or coconut milk. I've tried both and they're delicious variations)
Salt, to taste
Garam masala, for serving

Preheat the oven to 500° F (250ºC). Put the eggplants on in a baking dish, and pierce them all over with a fork or knife. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blackened and the eggplant is soft when pressed. Set aside to cool slightly. Then slice open lengthwise, scrape the flesh from the skin and mash coarsely. (You can do this part a day or two ahead and refrigerate it.)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the cumin seeds (or ground cumin) and cook until they begin to sizzle and pop, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, ginger, cayenne and curry leaves (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant and peas and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cilantro (if using), yogurt (or cream or coconut milk), and salt.

Serve sprinkled with garam masala.