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Grilled, Sides, Vegetarian

Indian Eggplant Bharta

Indian Eggplant Bharta
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Exchanging recipes with neighbors is friendly and fun. But as a newlywed and a novice at the stove, I quickly found out that it can also be dangerous. When I lived in Bat Yam in metropolitan Tel Aviv, my next-door ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour | Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 eggplants (2 to 3 pounds total)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos or other hot chiles, seeded if you want less heat, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger root
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Step 1Roast, broil or grill the eggplants, then peel them. Chop the eggplant pulp fine with a knife or in a food processor.

Step 2Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until it begins to brown, 7 minutes. Add the jalapenos, ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in the coriander, cumin and turmeric, followed by the tomatoes.

Step 3Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat until thickened, 7 minutes.

Step 4Add the eggplant, salt and cayenne pepper to taste and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve the eggplant hot, cold or at room temperature, spooned into a shallow bowl and sprinkled with cilantro.

Note: After your eggplant is cooked, this savory side dish accented with fresh ginger, garlic and spices is simple to make. It has long been one of the dishes I love most, and I enjoy discovering new versions. Rakhi Singh, a woman from Patna in northeast India whom I met recently while eggplant shopping, told me her variations on her region's beloved dish. Tiny green Thai bird chiles are her preference for lending heat to her bharta; when she can't get them, she opts for jalapenos or serranos. Unlike most cooks in India, she uses olive oil instead of vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter) for sauteing her onions. More surprising was her shortcut--she microwaves cubed eggplant instead of grilling it whole. You can serve it hot with rice or meat dishes, as they do in Indian restaurants. In our family, we also love it cold as an appetizer with crusty bread, pita or warm naan.


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