Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tomato sambal with eggplant

Attracted by those adorable little baby eggplants but don't know what to make with them?  Here's a recipe for you!  You could, of course, also use pieces of larger eggplants, but this is more fun.

It's based on the Tomato sambal in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, only her version is made with fresh tomatoes and doesn't include eggplant.  It's a forgiving recipe that you can customize to your own taste, or double or triple if you have more people to feed.

Start with heating a little peanut oil in a small skillet.  If you, like me, pour off the fragrant oil from the top of your jar of peanut butter, this is a good place to use it.

When the oil is hot, add a peeled, crushed garlic clove or two, and your eggplants, which you have sliced in a deep cross almost up to the stem, so they stay whole but can open up a little to receive the flavours of the sauce.  Stir and fry until the garlic is golden, then add a cinnamon stick and a small handful of curry leaves.  Madhur Jaffrey always says that if you can't find curry leaves, you can use fresh basil, and that that will give you a different but also good taste.  No doubt, but if you can possibly lay your hands on some fresh curry leaves, do.  They have a very special, utterly appetizing, popcorn-like fragrance, and they freeze well--these ones have been in the freezer for probably a couple of months and have a bit of freezer burn but they're still fine:


Stir that for a quick minute, then add thinly sliced onions:


...and continue to fry, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized:


By now, your kitchen is filled with the most amazingly lovely smell--the combination of all these things was made in some kind of East Indian heaven world, I'm sure--and add some canned tomatoes given a quick whirl with an immersion blender, plus some fresh, thinly sliced garlic:


Marvel at its beauty for a minute ;-), then season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on low heat until the eggplant is perfectly tender.  Here's the whole, stupendous meal:


What it is is lentils topped with spinach briefly stir-fried with chopped ginger and further topped with caramelized onions (also from World Vegetarian), the tomato sambal with eggplant, and some cubes of butternut squash slow-fried in a very little bit of peanut oil and a dash of panch phoron (and no water; covered, in a non-stick pan, this worked wonderfully but I think you'd need to use a squash like butternut that will hold its shape if you want it to retain its cubitude; with kabocha, for instance, I think you'd likely end up with a very delicious mess).  There's also a dab of tofu yogurt on the side.  Fantastic.

10 comments:

  1. Wow, gorgeous! I would love this, I can tell.

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    1. Thanks, Stacy. I agree--it would be hard for anybody not to love this!

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  2. Definitely gorgeous. I thought the curry leaves were bay leaves - but I see them in the final dish. So you can eat the leaves whole too?

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    1. Maud, oh, yes, you eat them. They're a bit chewy, but most definitely edible!

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  3. I AM attracted by adorable little baby eggplants and I DO rarely know what to do with them! Sambar is one of my favorite things so I will certainly take your tip to pair the two. Also, I never thought to use the oil on the top of my peanut butter for cooking - brilliant!

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  4. Beautiful! And this is coming from an eggplant hater.

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  5. Another inspirational meal — and reminder that I can't find my copy of World Vegetarian. Gah. Boo. Where is it?

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  6. I am no fan of eggplant so you can slash and burn those babies eight ways to sunday as far as I'm concerned.

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  7. This looks really wonderful! I love the combination of eggplant and tomatoes, especially when combined in an Indian dish.

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  8. I've always wondered about those little eggplants, now I know what to make next time I see them. :-)

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