I have started to cook more Indian dishes… and I really enjoy them. I have yet to share them with any of my Indian friends, though. While Rob may consider himself an Indian connoisseur, he doesn’t count. Indian food is typically spicy, and sometimes I wonder if I am eating bastardized dishes since mine are not super spicy. I mean, is it still authentic Indian food? ;)
I recently went to my friend’s baby shower where they had catered oodles of Indian food for the event. My poor friends tried the chaat appetizer and lost the majority of their taste buds instantly; it was that spicy. For the main meals, my friends taste-tested the dishes and let me know which I could tolerate. There was one slightly mild dish: a tomato-eggplant dish, they told me. Although it was drenched in oil, the dish was superb with roasted tomatoes and eggplant. I later asked what the “real” name of the dish was: bharta. I remembered Julia raving about her bharta and now I knew why. This is some great stuff!
One of the big differences I noticed in Julia’s recipe and the bharta component of the Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry was that Julia roasted her tomatoes. Ingenious! Roasted eggplant AND tomatoes. Now that flame-roasting my eggplants are out of the question, I did it the safer way: in the oven. Doubling it up with the tomatoes was simple.
I ended up using more eggplant and tomatoes than Julia’s recipe, and because I didn’t care to make a dal concurrently, I threw in chickpeas towards the end of the dish.
While I didn’t cry, this is definitely one of my favourite meals. Smokey, sultry tomatoes and eggplant comes together in savoury spices with a hint of heat. A smidgen of coconut provides some sweetness. The cilantro and lemon liven it up. It tastes lush and rich but is actually a healthy meal. The chickpeas give it some bulk and sustenance. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I think I might try my hand at these bean-based dosa next time.
Not to toot my own horn, but this dish tasted better than the one at my friend’s party. And likely a whole lot healthier. :)
Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)
2 medium eggplants (1.5-2 lbs), pierced with a fork
9 Roma tomatoes, halved (this made 2 cups of roasted tomatoes)
2 tbsp canola oil, divided (or less)
1-in piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp salt (use smoked salt for a smokey flavour)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, freshly ground
1/2 tsp garam masala
pinch Aleppo chili flakes
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Place whole eggplants and sliced tomatoes (cut side up) on the sheet and drizzle tomatoes with 1 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 1 hour and 10 mins at 400F. Watch closely during the last 15 minutes of roasting. Set aside to cool.
2. After it is roasted, cooled and peeled, dice and mash eggplant. Set aside. Once cooled, chop the tomatoes (peel if you care to, but I didn’t!).
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and ginger over medium high heat and cook 30 seconds. Add onion and salt and cook about 10 minutes until softened and golden.
4. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add coconut and cook for an additional minute. Add coriander, cumin, garam masala, and chili flakes; cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add a tablespoon of water to deglaze the pan and continue cooking for 1 more minute.
5. Add cooled tomatoes and eggplant and cook 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and stir until heated through, another 5 minutes.
6. Stir in half the cilantro and the lemon juice. Add salt to taste. Garnish with remaining cilantro.
Serves about 4-6.