Feb 13, 2012

Malabar Aubergine


Aubergines/Brinjals or more commonly eggplant is an interesting vegetable. By the way, I really do like the name eggplant; kind of suggestive of a neverland like place where eggs grow on trees :). Anyway, it seems to me that different cuisines react to eggplants, differently. Some cuisines have tons of ideas on how to use eggplants; think Turkish and Calabrian (southern Italian) cuisines where there is an amazing array of recipes featuring aubergine that makes you fall in love with the vegetable all over again. Whereas, in certain other cuisines there is none at all. For example, French. It is like the French just did not like the egg shaped veggies :) What a baffling thing!

I am a kidding of course! What a cuisine really is its geography and history. Believe it or not, geography is more like genetics. You know how geography defines climate and sets up the road map for regional cuisine. History, on the other hand, plays the role of evolution; events that shape how that cuisine  evolves over time.  A pretty neat thought, if you think about it that is and that too ...very hard :)

Indian food of course has regional variations, in this case in terms of acceptance of eggplants--its way to big to have a single geography or history-- that either love the 'Brinjal' or they don't! For example, Bengal (the place from where I come), Brinjals are either fried or mashed. I did not think of this, till a very good Bengali fellow cook (also a friend from childhood) pointed this out to me! Her name is Shreya and some day maybe I will ask her to write a post. She is one heck of a cook. Anyways, coming back to the topic...just like Bengal has very little love for Brinjals, the southern part of India has so much of its cuisine dedicated to these lovely and versatile veggies.

I particularly like the combination of coconut, yogurt and garlic. With a bit of cilantro. Ohh..its beach and lagoons and backwaters forever. Summer never leaves town when you got some coconut and garlic on hand.

Anyways..here is a recipe that I think I came up with. But it has such heavy tones of southern coastal Indian (called the 'Malabar' region) cuisine to it, that I am hesitant to ascribe it completely to a figment of my imagination. And although the recipe calls for Indian eggplants; wait the recipe does not call for anything since this is my recipe. One good thing about a self created recipe is that you get to make the calls like saying 'recipe calls for'-- :) :). Anyways, Indian eggplants are tiny--almost round, mini eggplants that cook in a short time. Almost always found in Indian groceries and never in regular ones. So you can very easily substitute with small Italian eggplants. The smaller the better. You really want to use whole eggplants here.

So here it is. For want of anything better to call it, I will just say

Malabar Aubergine 
That name pays tribute to the homeland of good eggplant food and acknowledges the beauty of the Indian coast that is so sublime and delightful.

Ingredients:

10 Indian eggplant or about 5-6 Italian (small) eggplants. You want to slice each--two cuts almost all the way through the entire length of the eggplant ..just not totally. You want it to be held at the top by the stalk. yes, save the stalk. Dry the eggplants in paper towels. This will prevent some spattering when you shallow fry later on.
1 cup pf yogurt thinned with half 1/3 cup of water
1/2-3/4 cup of dried unsweetened coconut flakes. You can make fresh ones if you like.
1 green chile or 2 jalapeno. Use your judgement for heat tolerance.
1 medium onion. Thinly sliced.
4-5 big cloves of garlic. Grated
1 tbsf grated ginger
1 tsp of whole cumin
1 tsp of whole mustard.
3-4 tbsf olive oil. You can use coconut oil (I have seen in Trader's Joe). Or even regular veg oil. Does not matter.
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish. A slice or two of lemon, if you so please.

In a skillet, heat oil and shallow fry the eggplants. 3-4 min on first side and then 2 per remaining sides. Careful, it spatters. So best to use a spatter guard. Or just plane stand back :) And make the yogurt mixture.  In food processor mix the thinned yogurt, coconut and jalapeno.
Once the eggplants are done, drain on paper towels and set aside. Add the mustard and whole cumin. Let pop. Add the onions. Brown well. The aroma should be intoxicating :) add the garlic and ginger. Sautee. Add the yogurt mixture and cook till things come to a boil.  Lower heat and carefully add the eggplants back into the sauce. Cook through. Turn the eggplants. Or aubergines. Or brinjals. Season with salt and pepper. You know, if you see things sticking, add some warm water. This will take a max of 15-min. But be patient. Let the eggplant integrate with the sauce. Its remarkable when that happens. 

Serve with some sticky jasmine rice, lemon flavored rice or plain rice. Garnish with cilantro and some lemon (if you wish). Let this be a reason to visit Malabar and never return :)


Happy eating and healthy living!


1 comment:

The Japanese Redneck said...

I luv eggplants. Especially luv growing and eating the ones we plant.