This is a post inspired by an old friend. Preethi and I went to the same school in India. My family moved to the US when I was in high school and I lost touch with most of my old school mates. The last time I saw her was in Warsaw, where she now lives, in 2007 when I was there on a business trip. We went to a cute little restaurant in downtown Warsaw for Pierogies. I had to share this summer recipe idea she sent my way.
So what is a Brinjal? It’s the Indian word for eggplant! Eggplants are called brinjals in India and South Africa and aubergines elsewhere.
India is the second largest producer of eggplants in the world. As an aside, there is a raging battle over whether genetically modified eggplants developed by a Monsanto subsidiary should be cultivated in India. Scientists are divided in their opinion and the public is largely against it. For now, the Indian Government has halted BT brinjal as the genetically modified version is called. On a more fun note, if you didn’t already know it, there are many different varieties of eggplant. The commonly found variety in the US, the dark purple eggplant, is much bigger than the Japanese, and Thai eggplants and I think has less flavor. There are some eggplants that are also green in color.
The recipe is inspired by a dish Preethi’s mother used to make in summer. I made this Brinjal Fry in Yoghurt sauce for the first time a couple of weeks ago when all I had was half an eggplant and 20 minutes to cook dinner. My husband and I loved it and we literally licked our plates clean. The recipe below should serve 3-4.
2 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp garam masala (or your favorite spice blend. Feel free to use more if you like your food spicy!)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup yoghurt
Pinch of paprika (or cayenne powder for more heat)
Recipe (35 minutes preparation, 15 minutes cooking)
Cut off the ends, halve the eggplant lengthwise and then slice into quarter inch thick pieces. You can also leave the eggplant whole and just slice it, but I find it easier to deal with smaller pieces and they cook faster too.
Place in a colander and mix in the salt. Let it stand for 30 minutes if you have the time. (This brining process draws out the water in the eggplant helping it cook faster and use less oil. It also removes the edge off the eggplant’s bitterness. If you’re like me and love the flavor of eggplant, you can do away with this step.) While you wait, you can prepare the remaining ingredients, set up the table and fix yourself a summery cocktail, preferably with involving rum, mint and sugar.
Crush and mince the garlic (crushing releases the powerful antibiotic properties of the garlic)
Put the yoghurt into a bowl and beat slightly till it is smooth.
Rinse the eggplant slices well, pat dry and mix with the spice blend.
Heat the oil in a frying plan on medium heat
When the oil is hot, sizzle the cumin seeds for 10 seconds
Add the eggplant and the garlic
Sauté for 10 minutes or till the eggplant is cooked through. If the pan gets dry, add a bit more oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary keeping in mind that the eggplant will be mixed with yoghurt.
Remove from heat and place the slices in the yoghurt. Sprinkly the paprika or cayenne powder on top for some color.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro or mint and serve with rice or naan.