It was a quiet overcast Sunday late afternoon. I had been out doing some of the week's grocery shopping and had arrived home. I put the groceries away and had a late lunch. I then sat down at my laptop. I was just going to force out some work, or do some research, when I got a much relieved invitation. Raji, my neighbor from 4 floors below, pinged me on Google Chat...
"Want to come down for chai tea? I have to do some cooking so we can chat while I do it?" Perfect I thought, as I let out a relieved sigh, I really did not want to sit at home and work by myself. "I'll be right down!" I replied. Raji is my neighbor and a fantastic cook of healthy Indian cuisine. She and her husband, like me, recently moved to Cleveland from the Bay Area. So when we met, we were immediately connected. As I set up my computer on her kitchen table, I could smell the relaxing scent of the whole cloves and the cardamon from the chai tea that was already simmering on the stove top.
There were three beautiful medium sized eggplant sitting on the counter. "Today I am making Eggplant Bhartha for dinner", Raji said with a smile. I love eggplant. There is so much that you can do with it, from baking to broiling... from Italian to Indian...
The first step was to wash the eggplant, cut them in half lengthwise and stick them in a 400 degree oven, flat side down for about 40 minutes until they were nice and soft. Then, we started with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan (you can use any high heat oil that you prefer). We added one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and salt. To that, we added one chopped onion, 2 Roma tomatoes and 1 cup of peas.
We sauteed that together and turned the heat low. We took the softened eggplant out of the oven and scraped out the insides.
We added that to the pea mixture, turned up the heat a bit more, and sauteed it all together. At this point we also added a bit of a very interesting ingredient called amchur powder. For those of you that do not know, it is made from tart sun dried unripe mangoes that are ground into a fine powder. We actually bought this ingredient when we were together in Chicago in October, at the amazing Fox &Obel grocery.
Then finally, we turned the heat back down to low and simmered it all for about 10 minutes with the lid on. And that's it!
The finished dish is set on a fluffy bed of Jasmine rice.
Not only was this winter afternoon's company the absolute best, especially on a lonely Sunday, but our dish was aromatic, flavorful and perfect. Below is the recipe in case you have an urge for delicious and healthy Indian cuisine.
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 to 2 Roma tomatoes (depending on how much tomato you like)