When the beans, greens, tubers and peppers have offered ample support to weeknight meals, cheering on from the sidelines as the lentils and gravies took centerstage, only a stellar performance from a lustrous vegetable can salvage another routine weeknight meal. The baby eggplants lure the dexterous daily hasher’s eyes from a distance. Perfectly poised in their round-bellied, purple-skinned, firm-faced stance, they call out stoically, breaking into brown veined disappointment should she bump them against each other, or the rim of the basket. She could plunge them in an oil bath with a scattering of seasonings till they shrivel and sport scowls, or slice them up in a ruthless pile and stir fry until they turn ratty. She could simmer them in a hot and creamy broth until they lose their vim and vigor, or dunk them in a bland batter to make listless fritters. But what she chooses to do, instead, is slit them up daintily, stuff them with a salty, peanut buttery, home-bred spice blend..and cook them tenderly and thoughtfully..and the results don’t just turn heads at the table, they tickle those taste buds with flavors that hit all the right notes at the right time..
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
8 Baby eggplant
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Large onion or 2 small ones, cut into thick slices
For the stuffing –
- 2 Tablespoons peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
- 2 Heaped tablespoons dosa mulaga podi (Substitute sesame or flax seeds powder + ¼ teaspoon cayenne)
- 2 Teaspoons coriander powder
- ½ Teaspoon cumin powder
- Pinch of turmeric and asafoetida
- ½ Teaspoon bottled tamarind concentrate, or a tablespoon of freshly extracted juice
- ¼ Teaspoon fenugreek seeds powder, optional
- Salt to taste
Warm the peanut butter in the microwave for a few seconds. Add the remaining stuffing ingredients and stir well, adding a splash of water to get a thick but spreadable consistency.
Wash and dry the eggplants. Do not remove the stems. Make 2 slits in each eggplant, perpendicular to each other, going almost until the base. Now use a butter knife to slide the stuffing inside the slits. You should be able to use up all the filling.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Toss the eggplants in the oil, rolling them gently to get all the sides browned. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and carefully. Sprinkle a little salt and then lower the heat, cover and cook until tender. Uncover and fry the veggies on high heat for 5 minutes, taking care to avoid breaking or burning them.