Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

I used to despise eggplants. With their weird rubbery purple skin and unappetizingly bland looking fleshy innards, they were definitely not one of the most desirable vegetables to consume. However, while cooking for nearly 40 people at my co-op one day, someone requested that we use up all the remaining eggplants in the fridge before they spoiled. So, I dug out Ammi’s old recipe book (Manisha Kanani’s The New Indian Cooking Course) and tried the “Aubergine Curry” (aubergine being synonymous with eggplant). Not only was it a big hit with everyone at dinner that night, but it become my new (and only) favorite eggplant dish! I have made it so many times over the past three years that the page in my cookbook is well-stained and crumpled from overuse (as any good recipe should be). Check it out below and let me know what you think! 🙂

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Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp grond coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh coriander
  • 1 fresh coriander spring to garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the eggplants individually in aluminum foil and bake in the oven for an hour or until soft. Remove, unwrap, and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the mustard seeds for 2 minutes until they begin to sputter.
  3. Add the spring onions, mushrooms, garlic and chili and fry for 5 minutes.
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  5. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, and salt and fry for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
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  8. Peel the skin off the eggplants, cut the flesh into small pieces, place in a small mixing bowl and mash roughly with a fork. You can also leave the skin on and instead cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon into a mixing bowl.
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  10. Add the mashed eggplant and chopped fresh coriander to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  11. Garnish with a fresh coriander sprig. Serve with naan or chapati and enjoy!
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Masoor Daal (Lentils)

Nothing can be more homey or comforting than a plate of masoor daal and rice. Although this is generally considered a simple dish only to really be cooked at home for one’s family, it ranks high on my list of comfort foods. And I must say, this quick dish most definitely brings comfort during these cold New England winters that I am still adjusting too. I have been working off a recipe from my Ammi (mother) for over three years now. Check out my own adapted version below.

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Ingredients

  • 2 c masoor (red) lentils (yellow split peas can also be a substitute)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger (or ginger paste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tomatoes cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion

Directions

  1. Wash the lentils.
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  3. In a pot, add lentils and enough water to cover the lentils. Cook covered until you see foam forming on the top. Drain off all the foam.
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  5. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, turmeric, ginger, and tomatoes.  Cook covered until the tomatoes soften and the mixture looks creamy, stirring occasionally. About 30 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add water.
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  7. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion and stir fry for about 3-5 mins.
  8. Add cumin seeds and garlic. Fry until onions are golden brown.
  9. Pour this mixture into the cooked daal.
  10. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice and enjoy!

Chicken/Tofu Tikka Masala

One of my all-time favorite dishes and one of my first original recipes (original in that I tried out many a recipe before settling on some sort of frankenstein of them all that made my tastebuds jump for joy). The key to this dish is patience. Patience to let the marinade infuse its magic into the chicken/tofu and patience for the create and tomato sauce to fuse harmoniously. But all that patience is worth the delicious creation at the end!
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Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 c yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
  • Or: instead of chicken, one package of extra firm tofu cut into large cubes

Main Dish

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 tsp cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and salt.
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  3. Stir in chicken/tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
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  5. Preheat grill to high heat.
  6. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread the chicken on skewers and discard the marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. If using tofu, do not use skewers and grill for about 6-7 minutes on each side. Instead of grilling, you can also pan fry the chicken/tofu until cooked, discarding the marinade.
  7. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  8. Sauté garlic for 1 minute. Add 2 tsp cumin, paprika, and salt and sauté for another minute.
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  10. Stir in tomato sauce and heavy cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
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  12. Add grilled chicken/tofu and simmer for 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with naan.