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Over and over again

I hate to say it, but I had an awfully hard time getting here today. It’s not that I didn’t want to stop by and say hello; I like you guys too much for that. It’s just that it’s been way too pretty lately to be sitting inside at the computer. As I type this, the front door is open wide and an enormous, gauzy swatch of sunlight has stretched itself along the wall. Yesterday afternoon, when the light was glowy and golden, we rented a rowboat and paddled out onto Lake Union. Then we just sat there for a while, oars up, admiring the white-bellied yachts with frilly names like Princess and Dream Catcher, and let the current pull us slowly back to shore. That’s all I ever want to do, really. Just sit in a rowboat all day, maybe with a blanket for extra warmth, and a large thermos of hot chocolate, and let the waves teeter-totter me around. I’m not sure where Rainy Old February has gone, but I hope it stays there for a little while longer. Until tomorrow, at least.

But hm, now that I’m here, I guess I might as well make the most of it. The sun is already starting to dim - that thing is so damn fickle - and anyway, it would be a shame not to tell you about this recipe. It’s been kicking around my files for a few years now, since I first found it and fell in love, and in the past ten days alone, we’ve made it not once, but twice. A rowboat it ain’t, but it does have the distinct advantage of being edible. (How’s that for a sell job? Impressive, no? In my next life, I’m going to be a car salesman.)

The dish in question is adapted from something I found in Food & Wine in early 2005, an Indian-spiced mash of eggplant, tomato, and peas, smoothed with a swirl of yogurt. I stumbled upon the recipe while visiting my mother in Oklahoma - she always has a stack of food magazines on the coffee table, and sometimes underneath it too - and I packed it in my suitcase and brought it back to Seattle. I was living alone at the time, and it was one of those dishes I could make on a Sunday night and eat from all week, with a piece of roasted chicken or a fried egg. It was warming and fragrant and a little exotic, and each day, while other leftovers went limp and stale, it only got better. I made it over and over again.

But then Brandon came along, and by the by, I got kind of distracted, what with all the cross-country swooning and then moving in and then marriage and so on, and I forgot about it, to tell you the truth. Sort of like I forgot about eating fresh ricotta straight from the container, or cottage cheese on baked potatoes, or watching The Cosby Show while I cooked dinner, other staples of my single days. So sad. I tear up a little just thinking of it. Except maybe the cottage cheese part.

But a couple of Sundays ago, we were playing around with Brandon’s recipe for chana masala, retesting it for the book - you didn’t think I could leave it out, did you? - and we needed a vegetable to eat with it, to round out the meal. Suddenly, I remembered my old favorite eggplant. It was just the thing. And so long as you don’t mind a little chopping - an onion, some garlic, a chile, some fresh ginger - it’s really quite easy. The eggplant gets roasted whole in a hot, hot oven, until the flesh inside yields like an old pillow. Then you scrape it out, mash it, and stir it into a skillet with a few aromatics, tomatoes, and frozen peas. To finish, it gets a good dose of chopped cilantro and a scoop of whole-milk yogurt, which rounds out the flavors and unites the whole mess - because it does look like a mess; I’m warning you - into a cohesive, softly spiced mash. We ate it with our chana masala and some flatbread, and it was so good that we had to make the whole meal again last Wednesday. My mother was in town for a visit, and she scraped her plate clean like a champ. Then she asked for the recipe. I gave it to her, but I forgot to tell her that I tore it out of one of her magazines. (Sorry, Mom. If you wondered where that page went, now you know. And thank you for my new flats! I’m wearing them today.)

I’m feeling so smitten, actually, with my old eggplant standby that I’m already thinking about making it again. Redundancy has never bothered me much, you know. I embrace my inner bore. Anyway, I’m sure February will be back soon, with all its usual huff and puff and bluster. My rowboat fantasies will no doubt wither under a raincloud within the next few days. But then, there’s always dinner to dream about.

Spiced Eggplant with Peas and Yogurt
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2005

When choosing eggplant, be sure to look for firm, shiny specimens, with skin that looks like patent leather. To try to get ones with the fewest seeds possible - the seeds can lead to bitterness - you might check the small spot on the blossom end, the end opposite the stem. From what I’ve heard, eggplants with a dimple or indentation on the blossom end can tend to have more seeds, whereas the ones with a flatter (or more outwardly pointed) end tend to have fewer. I have also found that the heavier and rounder an eggplant is, the more seeds it tends to have. But if you get one that tastes bitter, don’t sweat it: just try adding extra garam masala or some good curry powder (and even a pinch of sugar) while cooking, to sweeten and deepen its flavor.

Also, since tomatoes aren’t so great right now, consider using cherry tomatoes instead of the three standard-size ones called for below. Cherry tomatoes tend to be tastier in the winter than their full-size cousins. You’ll want about a scant pint of cherry tomatoes for this.

3 large eggplants (about 3 ½ lb.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded (or not) and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¾ cup chopped cilantro
1/3 - ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
Garam masala, for serving

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Put the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet, and pierce them all over with a paring knife. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blackened and the flesh feels very soft when pressed. Set aside to cool slightly. Then slice them open lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin onto a large bowl. Using a potato masher or a large fork, mash the flesh coarsely. (This part can be done a day or so ahead, if you like. Refrigerate the prepared eggplant in a covered container.)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large (12”) skillet. Add the cumin seeds 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, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant, stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the peas, and cook to warm through. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cilantro, yogurt, and salt.

Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with garam masala.

Note: This dish gets better with age. I like it just fine the first day, but by the second day, it’s even better.

Yield: 6 servings


Anonymous dänika said...

Hi Molly; this recipe sounds amazing (as does your weather - I'm so jealous!).

I've been an avid reader for a while now, but haven't commented before. I did want to let you know, however, that this afternoon I made your Fretwell Soup, and oh, my. It was perfect, just what my husband and I needed on this freezing, sleeting, blustery day. Thank you so much!

7:35 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger yola said...

I just came home from the grocery with a gorgeous purple eggplant knowing I'd find something special to do with it...and voila!

I look forward to reading your posts every week, it inspires me to actually get into the kitchen and enjoy being there. Thanks!

7:55 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger Ellen said...

yum! sounds like my kind of recipe. It's funny--I used to eat Indian curries & dals on a weekly basis--but not so much the last couple of years. Might be time to swing back. Oh! I got ramekins in the mail today. Still need to get some muscovado sugar, but then I'm going to try your pots of gold!

8:14 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger Briana said...

Relating this to Brandon's chana masala is a sure way to get me to sit up and take notice. It sounds lovely and comforting.

I've heard that male eggplants are less bitter than the female ones -- that's what you are looking at on the blossom end. (The shape indicates gender, I guess!)

9:01 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger Liv Moe said...

Hey there! I've been an avid reader too and I had to comment to ask what the other item on your plate is in this post. Chickpeas? Btw, I've made your chard and gruyere panade recipe several times. Yum!

9:15 PM, February 18, 2008  
Anonymous Su-Lin said...

Mmmm...yum yum yum. I'm always looking for new ways to cook eggplant. Thanks!

3:37 AM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Aran Goyoaga said...

i think i'm going to get some eggplants today. this sounds really good. i love your blog!

4:02 AM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous Virginia said...

Love your blog!!!! I am anxious to try this recipe. Do you give lessons?

7:52 AM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous ann said...

Where has The Cosby Show gone? They fill me with so much hope and happiness, those Huxtables do, especially now that I'm an adult, I finally get more of it than I did as a child. I see Clair and Cliff as the ultimate roadmap for adult happiness and relationshipy bliss...
Thanks for this recipe too, its lovely.

8:20 AM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger pen and paper said...

Oh, delicious!

10:29 AM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous michelle @ Us vs. Food said...

i'm trying hard to learn to embrace eggplant - for some reason, i only really *love* is as baba ganouj - and the flavors in this sound really nummy.

i wish i could stage and take photos like you...sigh. i think the lack of natural light in my kitchen will forever stymie me.

12:01 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Lakshmi said...

Oh, this is baingan bharta... :) Baingan meaning eggplant or brinjal, as we call it in India. My Mom used to roast the eggplant on the gas stove... that singed taste of eggplant is to die for... :)

12:42 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Angie said...

I love you.
And I mean this in the most non-gay way.
I seriously love you.
By the way, this is my first time in your blog but it won't be the last. Your recipes and the way you write... awesome.
Thanks for the recipes!
Again, not gay, just really impressed.

2:10 PM, February 19, 2008  
OpenID charcuterista said...

You know how you can read recipes in other people's blogs and think "That's a cool idea but when am I really going to make it?" This is not one of those times.

3:11 PM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous Ashley said...

I whole heartedly agree about the weather. I just love it when the sun comes out around here because EVERYONE goes outside. It doesn't matter that it's still freezing we just want to soak up the sun while we have the chance.
Thanks for the very yummy recipe.

3:43 PM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous Kate F. said...

Ok, so I'm a sucker for anything involving roasted eggplant. If you feel like alternating the indian-spiced eggplant mess with a couple other options, I highly recommend the recipe for Strange Flavor Eggplant from Barbara Tropp's China Moon cookbook. Aaaaamazing. And one of my favorite foods ever is a Persian eggplant dish called Mirza. You grill the eggplant whole, instead of roasting it, and then mix it with tomatoes and garlic and then break and egg into it and if you think the indian recipe is terrible to look at, wait until you see mirza. But OH it is so delicious. I blogged making it with my mom over the summer (I put the link into my name, if it works!).

Oh the deliciousness. Gah. Now I'm craving it like crazy.

By the way, I have a theory that so many people hate eggplant because they've never had it cooked until it goes silky. Eggplant it one of those rare vegetables that benefits from being cooked *really* well, and the smooth silky lusciousness of roasted or grilled eggplant mush is so different from the slightly bitter sponginess you get if it's undercooked!

3:48 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, YUM! I can't wait to try this.

I luuuuurve eggplant -- and it's my secret mission in life to make other people realize they do too. And golly, is there anything better than the smell of a roasting eggplant? I think it smells like brownies.

The bitterness and seedy-ness of an eggplant is directly related to how old it was when it was picked. And you can discern that almost entirely by looking at its calyx/stem end. The ideal time for it to be picked, so that it's tender and sweet with immature seeds, is when the calyx is about 1/4 the length of the whole fruit. Longer than that, and it's still a baby. Shorter (which is worse than too long, for sure) and it's too old, and might be bitter. Another sign is when the fruit is bulging out between the pointy parts of the calyx -- again, too old.

5:16 PM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous Ellie said...

Hi Molly,

I got right to this tonight, and made salmon to go with it. I slathered on some Greek yogurt, lemon juice and garam masala and man, it went so well with that eggplant! My eggplant did taste kind of bitter (maybe too many seeds) so I added some honey which rounded it out beautifully. I'd recommend that as another regular ingredient. Thanks so much!

7:30 PM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous BSN said...

I read your blog avidly and love it!

Try this recipe with an eggplant. It's a south Indian way of cooking eggplant and it's fantastic.

Grind together some coriander seeds, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, a few dried red chillies and a pinch of asafoetida.

Boil together 1 cup cooked split yellow peas, 1 large cubed eggplant, 1 cup of cubed tomatoes, 1 TB tamarind paste and 1 tbsp of unrefined cane sugar. Add the paste of coriander, coconut etc to this. Sautee some cumin and mustard seeds and garnish with these.

8:24 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hi Molly, this sounds like the type of food my college age daughter would love when she comes home for the weekend. Guess I'll have to make a trip to the Mediterranean Deli to pick up some eggplant. I'm really envious of your weather.

8:30 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Libby said...

Hello. I made this for supper tonight and it was lovely. My boyfriend (who's not a big eggplant fan) couldn't stop raving. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

11:05 PM, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Darron said...

I just recently discovered your site and enjoy it very much. This week I made your warm butternut and chickpea salad with tahini and it was wonderful! I posted about it on my own blog with a link to you, hope you don't mind. Thanks!

The Teacher Learns to Cook

6:34 AM, February 20, 2008  
Blogger erinwithalatte said...

Molly, I just made this last night and it was wonderful! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

9:58 AM, February 20, 2008  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Sigh. Your writing is just so fantastic. That rowboating sounds so dreamy - I wish the weather was like that here! And as for redundancy, I'm Mrs. redundant who likes to make a good thing over and over and over too :)

2:50 PM, February 20, 2008  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Molly, I like the rowboat fantasy, too... and, I hope you will enjoy being tagged for a meme over at
http://zoomiestation.blogspot.com/2008/02/screaming-me-mes.html. If you're too busy, I will understand!

6:25 PM, February 20, 2008  
Anonymous enthusiastically human said...

oh, you made a pot of happiness! nummers.

8:30 PM, February 20, 2008  
Blogger AnnieKNodes said...

Brandon's Chana Masala is my go-to recipe for the dish. One of the best I've ever made. So if you say this is good, I gotta try it!

9:05 AM, February 21, 2008  
OpenID Anna said...

oooh gotta try this Indian food is a firm favorite in my house and I'm always looking for new ways with eggplants- thanks!

2:48 PM, February 21, 2008  
Blogger Patriot said...

New to your site and wanted to say hello! Thanks for all the marvelous recipes!

7:49 PM, February 21, 2008  
Blogger pea & pear said...

I love this recipe, it's been too long already since I last used eggplant. Usually I cook eggplant with italian inspiration, I can not wait to try this out. Thanks for your lovely photos and blog!!! It's hard to compete with that sort of weather.
pea & pear

2:36 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger My Ice Cream Diary said...

Thank you, thank you. I cannot wait to try this!

8:00 AM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger yusufyusuf said...

Nice blog....

8:21 AM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger amisha said...

so envious of your dreamy february weather, molly... here amazing drifts of snow are melting and turning brown, and i'd love a little sun.
the eggplant sounds fantastic. definitely one of my favorite indian foods! xo

2:30 PM, February 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, love for your blog! Aubergine is a huge favourite of mine too so this recipe was appreciated. Made it for my boyfriend yesterday and we loved it. Would be happy to return the favour with a goulash recipe if you want to visit my blog ;) Jen X

2:20 AM, February 24, 2008  
OpenID vegeyum said...

I was just visiting Nourish Me's site, saying how fascinating eggplants are, and just how many cultures have incorporated eggplants into their cuisines. I love them a lot, and have just tonight cooked steamed eggplant with a sesame and soy sauce. Couldn't live without them.

4:37 AM, February 24, 2008  
Blogger Caroline said...

I had to check the post date two times to see that I hadn't stumbled upon an old one... it is SO hard to imagine a wonderful breeze or an open door. Send some of that Spring to Chicago!

12:10 PM, February 24, 2008  
Blogger Hopie said...

hello, i really enjoy reading your blog :-)

my partner loves eggplant and i love indian food -- so this recipe looks like a great compromise. i'll definetly try it out, especially since the eggplants are looking beautiful at the market these days where i am.

5:59 AM, February 25, 2008  
Anonymous sarah said...

I made this last night for some friends and everyone loved it. I ended up doubling all the spices (possibly mine weren't as fresh as yours? though I do make your chana masala with more spices, so perhaps I just like things spicier :) and putting the garam masala (2t) into the dish instead of leaving people to sprinkle it on. Very tasty, Thanks!

10:18 AM, February 28, 2008  
Blogger jenifer74 said...

made this this weekend and yum! thanks for the recipe. i've tried lots of others of yours and love them too. looking forward to your book :)

12:45 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger anntorian said...

we made this last night, we paired it with a recipe for naan that i found through another blog (i forget who to credit) http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Naan/Detail.aspx

they fit together so well, it was love.

thanks again, i am excited to have it for lunch today to see how the flavors have developed.

5:57 AM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Taverna del Pavone said...


9:03 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Dear Molly, I love your blog and have been following it for a long time now. I never saw the clip of you and your partner about the yogurt cake. I'm even more in love with your blog now! How gorgeous! I made this eggplant curry and it was very tasty! Thank you, it will defintely be made again!

5:24 PM, April 06, 2008  
Anonymous NRHatch said...

Molly! Over the past two years I have been expanding my palate and sometimes it takes me a while to get used to things. After seeing this Indian frozen dinner made by Amy's organic in the freezer bin at work over and over again I decided I would try it even though it looked so strange. The flavors were so comforting and warm and I loved it! So when I saw your post on eggplant (which I have never eaten before) I made this dish and although I ate my whole plate I had to force it down. Is it possible that I could have picked out the most bitter eggplants in the world? And maybe I'll never like garam masala...but I am thankful for the experience. Keep posting!

7:16 PM, April 07, 2008  
Blogger Clare Marie said...

I made this last night and OH MY, it is SOOOO fantastic! In fact, I highly encourage you to include more eggplant recipes on this blog. I can't get enough of it! My husband loved this recipe too, which says a lot since he "doesn't like" eggplant. Well, he's a total convert now!!
In addition to this one, I have been making a lot of your recipes and all have been amazing. What's even more amazing, though, is that I don't normally cook and yet I'm eagerly reading your blog and actually cooking your food....and I am enjoying the process!! So, thank you. I am a devoted fan.

6:22 PM, June 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok so - I really don't like eggplant. I have tried many incarnations of eggplant recipies without sucess. I continue to get eggplant in my CSA box so every summer I try, try again. I made this without high hopes but it was delicious!!! I would actually consider buying eggplant just to make this! You have never failed me Molly!!! THANK YOU!!

4:04 PM, August 14, 2009  
Anonymous Naomi said...

Hate to bring back posts from the dead, but its eggplant season so I was on the hunt for something to do with the purple globes that came nestled in my CSA box.

I changed the recipe a bit just because I didn't have everything:
- omitted the jalapeno, tumeric, ginger
- added chickpeas in (too lazy to make a separate dish of chana masala but wanted the protein
- 2% greek yogurt
- and curry powder instead of garam masala.

It was quite divine. I'm thrilled to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

8:17 PM, September 19, 2011  
Blogger robin said...

Molly, I always swear I am going to use a recipe from someone other than you or Deb (Smitten Kitchen's) but when it comes down to it, there's just no reason to. And every time I set out to find a new recipe for something I'm craving, google just brings me back to one of you.

This was a great dish. I accidentally omitted the garlic (and thought as I was making it, "so odd there's no garlic in this recipe!"), so I guess that means that next time it will be even better!

Thanks for the amazing recipes, each and every one of them!

6:05 PM, April 10, 2013  

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