A couple of days ago, we discovered Sahadi’s, a magical emporium of imported foods from everywhere, but especially the Middle East. And so cheap. We were about to go to a movie, so we only got a few obvious necessities: chipotle oil, vindaloo sauce, black tea, cumin and garam masala. Sadly, nothing to snack on, we realized later. The spice selection at this place is wonderful and such a bargain, so we have big plans to go back this week. We have a list.
In the meantime, there was an old-fashioned NYC torrential downpour yesterday, so it seemed like perfect weather to combine the masala with an eggplant that was languishing in the fridge.
There are few things as warm and comforting as garam masala. It is kind of like chili powder or curry powder—it’s different wherever you go. So if you don’t have any, you can approximate it by combining one tablespoon each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and black pepper and one teaspoon of ground cloves. Shake up the mixture in a plastic baggy or spice jar and you’re set.
To keep eggplant from getting squishy: Chop it up a few hours in advance, sprinkle it with salt and then layer the pieces between paper towels. I usually put a cutting board with a few heavy cans on top. This way, a lot of the water will come out and the eggplant will stay firm.
- One medium eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces and salted
- One large can (30 ounces) of black eyed peas
- One large sweet onion
- Half a clove of garlic
- Two large tomatoes, chopped
- A thumb-sized chunk of ginger, peeled
- One or two serrano peppers
- Three-to-five tablespoons of garam masala
- Salt and pepper
- Steamed basmati rice
Here’s what I did
Take half of the onion and cut it into rough chunks. Put it into a small food processor with the peeled garlic cloves, ginger, hot peppers and masala. Process into a fine dice. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot. Add the aromatic dice and cook on very low heat for seven or eight minutes. It should smell amazing. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the salted-and-squeezed eggplant. If it starts to stick, add a bit more oil. Saute for five or six minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes (I didn’t bother peeling or seeding them for this operation). Add a few teaspoons of salt, the black eyed peas and a cup of water. (For a more traditional approach, use chickpeas or lentils, though I highly recommend the peas—they were delicious.) Let this simmer on low heat for 30-45 minutes. At some point, give it a taste. Does it need more salt, pepper, masala? Adjust.
Meanwhile, start the basmati rice cooking and dice the other half of the onion, which I added to the pea-eggplant mixture when it was close to done. This gave a nice fresh flavor and crisp texture to the stew. Before serving, turn off the heat and let it thicken and cool for 15 minutes or so. Serve over basmati rice, maybe with some Greek yogurt.