Hot weather signals eggplant season. Farmer’s markets and Asian grocery stores explode with various kinds and colors. All of a sudden, the typical purple globe eggplant seems dull, especially when compared to charming little Indian eggplants. In California, many of the Asian eggplants are grown by Southeast Asian farmers in the Central Valley. When you see Indian eggplants – which look like jumbo purple eggs – get some. Dive in to purchase your share of the meaty wonders.
Sure, you can grill them up as cutie mini-eggplants but stretch a little further and make this Indian preparation, one of my favorite summertime dishes. Adapted from Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 Dishes (Chronicle Books, 2007), this recipe is one of my go-to eggplant recipes. I originally posted it at Bittman.com a couple years ago and dust off the recipe yearly. In other words, it’s a keeper.
Each Indian eggplant is cut with a deep cross and then stuffed with a mixture of peanuts, sesame seeds, cilantro, garlic and spices. Then all of them get panfried with a little water to cook through. You can make this Indian eggplant recipe ahead and reheat it to eat later, even days later. The result is rich and a smidgen spicy, great with rice and a curry or grilled or roasted meat.
I made the batch photographed here a few weeks ago, as soon as I spotted the lovely eggplants at an Indian market. They were early season ones and frankly not as good as the ones that you’ll come across as the temps heat up. So think and make this recipe in the months ahead. The eggplant selection will be getting better.
Buying guide: Indian eggplants are available at South Asian grocery stores, farmers markets that have Hmong vendors, and some Chinese markets. Choose firm, weighty ones that aren’t too big or too small. I go for ones the size of jumbo or duck eggs. Whatever the size, avoid bruised ones. If Indian eggplants are unavailable, substitute small Japanese or Italian eggplants. Sorry, regular globe eggplants are too big.
Enjoy. I’m taking a week off for R&R&W (rest, relaxation and little work) and will return late next week with another VWK dispatch.
Indian Eggplant Stuffed with Sesame-Peanut Masala
Yield: Serves 4
- 1/4 cup toasted white (hulled) sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 teaspoons water
- 8 Indian eggplants, or 6 small Italian or Japanese eggplants (1 1/2 pounds total)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 cup water
- For the filling, use a mini food processor to grind the sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar, salt, turmeric and cayenne to a crumbly texture. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cilantro and water to create a compact, spreadable mixture. Set aside.
- Use scissors to trim the eggplant stems so that they are about 1/2 inch long. Use your fingers to remove the green pointy flaps of the eggplant caps. Make a deep cross incision in each eggplant, stopping 1/2-inch short of the stem. To do that, position each one on its side on your cutting board. Hold it down with one hand while you wield the knife with the other hand to make the first horizontal cut. Roll the eggplant 90 degrees and make the second horizontal cut.
- Use a teaspoon to stuff each eggplant with about 1/8 of the filling. Gently pry open the eggplant, stuff in the filling. Make sure there is filling between each of the cuts. Gently squeeze the eggplant to make the filling sticks and fills the crevices.
- Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet over medium heat to film the bottom. When hot, add the eggplants in a single layer. Fry the eggplants for 3 to 4 minutes, turning frequently, to brown them on two sides. Don’t fret when some of the filling spills out. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover with a lid or foil, and turn the heat to low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning halfway through, until tender. Pierce with the tip of a knife to test. There will be filling in the skillet bottom. If you want to crisp those bits and serve them with the eggplant, increase the heat to medium high and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the heat, let the sizzling subside, then transfer to a plate and serve hot or warm.
Note: To reheat, bring to room temperature. Refry with a little oil and water in a skillet, covering the skillet to heat through. Uncover to recrisp. You’re basically repeating the frying but with a shorter amount of time.
More Vegetarian Indian recipes to try:
- North Indian Egg Curry (Anda Masala)
- Indian Rice and Lentil Dumplings (Kudzi Paniyaram, on Asian Dumpling Tips)
- Coconut Cilantro Chutnety (Lili Chatni, on Asian Dumpling Tips)