In the continuing vein of eggplant as delicious ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

15 August 2007

In the continuing vein of eggplant as delicious

I've written about this so many times it's not even funny. So there's this tiny little restaurant in Ann Arbor, the Earthen Jar, which serves a mostly vegan Indian lunch buffet by weight. It usually gets overlooked, though, because it's right next to one of Ann Arbor's most avidly desired Middle Eastern places, Jerusalem Garden. Most people looking for cheap, fast delicious vegetarian lunch don't even notice the Earthen Jar is there: they head straight for the falafel. So did I, mostly, but when I did go next door, everything was always fantastic.

One of the regular buffet pieces was a spicy eggplant with tomato and sesame. My friend Ryan particularly loved this stuff, so much so that he went home, experimented, and came up with his own version. Then he wrote it down and we stuck it up on the kitchen wall with all the other things we wanted to make all the time. Since the Earthen Jar never has matching names on any of their buffet cards (although the online menu now tells me that the real name is Baingan Bhujia), we had no idea what the stuff was actually called; it became Eggplant Business. It was the perfect food for houseful of poor vegetarian college students.

The whole vegetarian college house menu is pretty interesting, actually. Everyone was starting to experiment with interesting food and develop actual cooking techniques while spending as little money as possible. Eggplant business works extremely well under these circumstances: one eggplant, one large can of tomatoes, and one pot of rice can easily be enough to feed six people.

Eggplant business

olive oil
sesame seeds
curry, cumin, ginger, cayenne

Dice up some garlic and an onion and sauté them in olive oil with sesame seeds. Mince and add fresh ginger if you've got it and have the sufficient energy to actually deal with it. When things have softened, add a diced eggplant and a can of diced tomatoes/some diced actual tomatoes. Spice with curry, cumin, and cayenne, plus salt and pepper and ground ginger if that's all you have. Use lots of spices. Stir it all up; add some water or broth if things are too thick to simmer.

Ryan's original directions are to "stew till delicious!" This usually takes somewhere from ten to twenty minutes, but it depends on so many variables that you can't count on time. You can easily count on deliciousness, however. When everything looks collapsed and stewedy, and the spices are impossible to avoid even in the topmost corners of the house, it is probably done.

Eat with rice (traditional), naan (effortful but delicious), or barley. We chose barley. Here is one grain that gets overlooked in the flock of people mooning over things like quinoa, which is interesting considering it's a tenth as expensive. Cook it exactly like rice, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water. It is great.

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