There are many kinds of eggplants in Asia and the egg-shaped Indian variety is particularly wonderful. It peaks during hot months and as the season winds down, I make this terrific Indian recipe, which I learned from Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. You’ll find the Indian eggplants at South Asian markets as well as at some farmer’s markets where they’ll be sold by Asian farmers. In California where I live, Hmong farmers are my summer time go-to source for eggplants. They have a medium-thick skin and creamy flesh, and are much smaller than the regular globe variety. You can certainly grill them, but better yet, stuff them with a rich mixture of ground peanuts and sesame seeds and let them get kind of crusty. Serve warm or cold.
Indian Eggplant Stuffed with Sesame-Peanut Masala
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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