Friday, August 19, 2011

Baingan Bharta - Mashed Eggplant

I'm not qualified to cook Indian food.  Not only because of the whole thing about cooking unfamiliar ethnic dishes and just not knowing the ins and outs, but also because I'm simply not going to have a cardamom pod or whole cumin seed on hand.  It's just not going to happen.  

But this is delicious and you should make it.  Even if you don't have a whole cardamom pod.  

Sometimes, though, delicious food isn't pretty.  I want to make that clear up front.  This is not a pretty dish.  Take eggplant, and mush it.  Oh yeah, I want to look at that.  No, you don't want to look at it, you want to eat it.  Prioritize.  

My limited experience with this dish before making it was as follows:  Went out to eat with MSNDG, she ordered it, I liked it, she complained that it wasn't smoky enough.   I like things that are smoky.  I took on the challenge. 

So I Googled.  The first recipe I saw said to microwave the eggplant.  I've never microwaved an eggplant, and this didn't seem like the time to try.  Another recipe said to roast it on the stovetop like how I do corn and peppers.  Sure.  Fire.  Smoke. Yes. 

So I washed an eggplant, dried it, and threw it on the burner.

I turned it with tongs a few times and it went pretty fast.  Like less than five minutes until the eggplant no longer had the structural integrity required to sit on the burner.

So I put it in a paper bag, as though it was a roasted pepper, and set it aside while I did other things.

yes, a wine bag. 

Other things like scrub my stove. 

Then I got the rest of my veg together.  An orange pepper, haphazardly diced.

A serrano pepper, minced small. 

An onion, diced. 

Tomatoes.  I had cherries, because I had cherries. I wouldn't choose this, but it worked fine.  Two medium tomatoes?

Sous Chef Brian grated up some ginger and garlic (garlic not photographed, but you've seen that before).

There are several things wrong with this photo.  1.  Not a lot of grated ginger in the shot.  2. The ginger you see isn't peeled.  I'm aware of this.  Ginger isn't a pro at posing for pictures. 

The tomatoes, ginger, garlic, serrano pepper and spices (1 tbsp cumin powder, 1tsp corriander, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp chili powder) all got blended together.  Yeah, I didn't toast the spices.  Again, you could do this more traditionally, but I'm telling you, this was delicious. 

And went into a saute pan with the onions and peppers (oops, peppers aren't in this shot). 

Hey, how's that eggplant doing?  Ugly as all hell?  Great!

Resist the urge to turn back and order a pizza at this point. 
Peel it.  I learned things about eggplant during this process, and I've made a lot of eggplant before.  I've just never peeled one that was roasted over an open flame and sat in a bag for 20 minutes.   A few notes.  Put that bag on a plate, because your eggplant is gonna leak.  Also, this is sticky.  And wet.  

Dice the eggplant.  I could see value in de-seeding it, but I didn't do that, so make your own decisions here.  Throw it in the pan with the rest and saute a bit.  Mash it with the back of your spoon as you go.  It'll mash. 

Maybe 15 minutes of this?  On medium. Mash those peppers too.  Mash everything.  I didn't break out any power tools for the mashing, but you could do that.  

All mashed?  Good.  Not pretty though, huh?  Nope. 

Sprinkle with cilantro.  My cilantro plant has gone the way of so many basil plants.  I'm not for plants. 

Serve with some naan.  Or whatever.  

We actually made it with some chicken masala that I would not recommend - I mean, I'd recommend eating this with chicken masala, if chicken's your thing, but I wouldn't recommend doing the chicken masala up like we did.  It was fine, but not share-worthy. 

The eggplant was smoky, and sweet, and just a little bit spicy.  And smooth.  

mmm... beige food.  with a side of beige.

print recipe

Baingan Bharta - Mashed Eggplant
Creamy and smoky Indian-style vegetable dish
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced (yellow, orange, red)
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon corriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • a bit of cilantro, to garnish
Roast the eggplant over an open flame for 5 minutes, turning the whole time, until it's soft and the skin is peeling. Set aside in sealed paper bag. Blend tomatoes, serrano pepper, ginger, garlic and spices.Put puree and onions and bell pepper in a saute pan on medium and simmer a bit to soften pepper and onion. Peel eggplant and dice. Add to saute pan. Keeping pan on medium, stir vigorously and mash eggplant and other veg with spoon. Simmer (it's not wet enough to simmer, really) about 15 minutes until it's well combined and mashed, heated through. Garnish with cilantro.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 large servings

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