November 06, 2019
Eggplants are wonderful and versatile ~ they satisfy the meaty urge, taste good cold and can be seared, broiled, braised or smoked. During my years as the chef-owner of Indika restaurant in Montrose in Houston, I was forced to rein in an eggplant obsession when a cook pointed out that we had eggplant nine different ways on the menu - from pakora to pickle to raita. When it is eggplant season, there are plenty of varieties on farm-stand tables at local farmer’s markets. So, ignore the nightshade naysayers and cook this supremely simple smoked eggplant. Eat it with steamed rice or a roti. Or spread it on a warm toast the next morning and enjoy it for breakfast!
Serves 4 to 6
1 large purple eggplant or 3 small ones (1 pound total weight)
Generous pinch salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt, whisked
Cilantro for serving/garnish
Mint sprigs for serving/garnish
Pinch of chili powder (optional)
Rub the eggplant(s) with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place directly over a gas stove (or on a patio grill). Smoke on all sides until the skin is completely charred and the inside appears soft and cooked through. Let the eggplant cool for 4 to 5 minutes then peel and discard the charred skin. Place the eggplants on a serving dish and sprinkle with salt.
In a small frying pan on high heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. When it is just shy of smoking, add the garlic and cumin seeds. The garlic will turn golden, and cumin seeds will pop and sizzle. Within 2 to 3 seconds, take the frying pan off the heat and drizzle the oil mixture over the eggplant.
Place dollops of yogurt, sprigs of mint and cilantro and sprinkle red chili powder if desired. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.
If the eggplant is large, smoking it may not cook it entirely through. In this case, after smoking, place it on a skillet or baking sheet, cover tightly with foil and roast in a 350°F pre-heated oven for 8 to10 minutes.
Top the eggplant with toasted nuts, currants, sliced dates or raisins.
Replace the yogurt with the juice of a lemon or lime.
December 02, 2022