A long time reader of The Perfect Pantry, Judy answered the call for vegetarian and vegan recipes for my Meatless Holidays e-book with a dish called eggplant salad (baingan bharta). When I made it for the cookbook, I envisioned it as a vegetarian or vegan main dish served with brown rice and almond pilaf, and renamed it roasted eggplant with cumin and cilantro. The original recipe calls for quite a bit of yogurt; in Judy's adaptation, she'd cut that way down, and in my version, the yogurt is completely optional, so if you're vegan, leave it out. Indian-spiced food might be a nontraditional choice for your holiday table, but recipes like this eggplant are a great option for those "blended family" occasions when turkey-lovers and turkey-avoiders come together: one person's main dish is another person's side. It's also a good make-ahead dish for worknight dinners, as the eggplant is good served hot, cold, or at room temperature. For this recipe, go ahead and buy those gigantic, deep purple eggplants you find at the market, not the thin, delicate Japanese ones.
Roasted eggplant with cumin and cilantro
A reader shared this original Food Network recipe by Aarti Sequeira, with her suggested modifications. I added one or two of my own, of course. The yogurt here is optional, in my opinion, so if you want a vegan dish, simply leave it out. Serves 4; can be multiplied.
2 large eggplants (not Japanese eggplants; get big fat ones)
2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (if you like hot food, leave some of the seeds and ribs in)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves and small stems, plus more leaves for garnish
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Fresh black pepper
1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (optional)
Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with alumninum foil.
Make three length-wise slashes in each eggplant, equally spaced around the eggplant. Rub both eggplants with oil (it will take only 1/2 teaspoon of oil to coat both), and place them on the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes; turn the eggplant slightly, and continue roasting for an additional 10 minutes, until the skin is brown and the eggplants are slightly collapsed. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.
When the eggplant is cool, pull off the skins (this will be easy), and roughly chop the eggplant flesh.
In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the remaining peanut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until browned, but not crisp; this will take a few minutes, so stir occasionally and be patient. You are caramelizing the onions, which will make a difference in the taste of the dish.
Add to the onions the eggplant, garlic, jalapeño and cilantro leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. If the eggplant begins to stick, add 1/4 cup of water.
Add the turmeric, cumin, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. (It sounds like a lot, but the eggplant really needs it.) Continue stirring and cooking for another 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste with salt and pepper. If you want a vegan dish, stop now. Otherwise, stir in the yogurt, and continue stirring until it dissolves into the eggplant.
Serve warm, over rice, garnished with additional cilantro leaves. Or, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Then, serve cold, as a salad.
More Indian side dishes to serve together:
Raita (Indian yogurt and cucumber condiment), from The Perfect Pantry
Mushroom bhaji (mushrooms in tomato-onion sauce), from The Perfect Pantry
Saag aloo (potatoes with spiced spinach), from The Perfect Pantry
Cumin rice with eggplant and peas, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Roasted eggplant with garlic cumin yogurt, from 80 Breakfasts
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