Baingan Bharta


Late summer is the perfect time to make this Northern Indian stew, when eggplants and peppers are plentiful and tomatoes are still available, if not slicer-perfect. You can use any kind of eggplant. The key is to roast it first to bring out a smoky flavor. Serve with basmati rice.

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium or 3 small)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 medium yellow onions (or 1 large), chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 15-ounce can small-diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala*
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. On a grill, under the broiler or directly over the flame of a gas stove, roast the eggplants, turning occasionally, until the skin is charred and the flesh has collapsed and is very soft, about 15 minutes. Cool until it is easy to handle, then cut the eggplants lengthwise in half and scoop the flesh away from the charred skin. Scrape away most of the seeds (but don’t be too particular about it) and coarsely chop or mash the flesh. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the mustard seeds and whole cumin and cook until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper and cook 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, garam masala and cumin. Cook until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring to prevent sticking, about 4 minutes. Add the mashed eggplant and enough water to create a thick stew, stirring and mashing until well combined. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

*This common Indian spice blend is sold in specialty markets and some grocery stores.

Makes 2 main servings or 4 side servings. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time (including roasting eggplant): 35 minutes