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North Indian (Fairy Tale) Eggplants

Ingredients

  • Couple dozen small eggplants 
  • Finely grated fresh ginger (about 2 tablespoons for a couple dozen
              very small eggplants; more if you are using larger ones) Do not
              substitute powdered ginger. 
  • 2 tablespoons; 4-5 cloves crushed garlic   
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste) 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional) 
  • 1/4 c lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c water
  • Cayenne pepper (if you like it hot) 

Preparing eggplants: 

For this recipe, the smaller the eggplant the better. It works best with eggplants no more than 4 inches long and 2 inches across. Ideal with Fairy Tale eggplants, which are tiny and sometimes no more than 2 or 3 inches long and 1 inch across. 

Cut each eggplant lengthwise up to, but NOT INCLUDING, the stem end; rotate ¼ turn and repeat. You should be able to open up the eggplant into 4 quarters, connected just by the stem at one end. Set aside. 

Preparing filling: 

This filling is not a “stuffing” so much as a dry marinade. If you do not like a particular spice or don’t have it, feel free to omit. Note that omitting ginger and garlic would substantially alter taste, but could be good if you don’t have them on hand. 

Depending on amount of eggplants, adjust quantities accordingly and to taste. 

In a small bowl, combine and mix well: 
       o Finely grated fresh ginger (about 2 tablespoons for a couple dozen
          very small eggplants; more if you are using larger ones) Do not
          substitute powdered ginger.           
       o Crushed garlic (about 2 tablespoons; 4-5 cloves) 
       o Salt (about 1 tsp.) 
       o Cayenne pepper (1/4 to ½ tsp, to taste) 
       o Freshly ground black pepper 
       o Ground coriander seed (1 tsp) 
       o Ground cumin (1/2 tsp) 
       o Turmeric powder (1/2 to 1 tsp) (Optional) 

Filling eggplants 

Take a rimmed baking sheet or platter large enough to hold all eggplants, as this step can get messy. Take a teaspoon and insert about ½ to 1 tsp. of the above mixture. Spread around as best you can. This is not an exact science. (Note, if you are using turmeric, your hands will get yellow; if using cayenne, take care to avoid touching your eyes.) Squish the eggplant back together, set aside until all are stuffed in this manner. Some will fall out the sides; you can jam clumps of it back in. 

Frying 

Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a wide heavy bottomed shallow pan, such as a sauté pan (heavy stainless steel is good or enameled cast iron work well). When oil is very hot, lay eggplant in a single layer; fry on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until eggplant is browned all over and soft. (Should take about 10 minutes for tiny Fairy Tale eggplants—if using larger baby eggplants may take longer.) You will want to use your oven vent fan during this step. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggplants to tray lined with paper towels. 

Sweet and sour sauce

In a small bowl, combine about ¼ c lime or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ c. water. Add cayenne pepper if you like it hot. 

Completing dish

Pour off and discard oil; lay eggplant back in pan (doesn’t need to be perfectly clean). Turn heat to medium, pour sauce over eggplants, and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes. 

Adjust quantity above according to amount of eggplant—may add more lemon/lime juice and water if need be. Intent is to give flavor, not to make them floating in a ton of watery sauce. 

Serve with basmati rice or your choice of Indian bread (naan, chapatti, parantha), with an Indian main dish like lentils, and a salad or raita. 

This is a fairly labor intensive recipe, but worth it if you love meltingly soft eggplant with a spicy kick.

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