Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rice with Stuffed Baby Eggplant

This is a delicate, mildly seasoned rice, unique in its garnish of whole pan-fried stuffed eggplants. The special appeal of this recipe is in the tiny eggplants, only 2-3 inches long weighing about 2 ounces each. The white or purple oval types are occasionally found in Indian grocery stores or gourmet greengrocers. An alternative is the slim, 4-inch purple-black Japanese variety. The egg-plants are slit into quarters and stuffed with a mixture of pan-roasted spices chickpea flour and yogurt. Serve this scrumptious main dish rice with a fresh tossed green salad, Spicy Cauliflower with Braised Tomato, Double-Dal soup and Griddle-baked Whole Wheat Bread for a nutritious lunch or dinner.

Serves: 6
Basmati or other long-grain white rice - 1 1/2 cups
Baby oval eggplants - 5-6
Fennel Seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander Seeds - 2 tbsp
Chickpea flour - 1 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric - 3/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Plain yogurt - 3 tbsp
Salt for eggplant - 1/3 tsp
Ghee or vegetable oil - 5 tbsp, divided
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 8-10
Hot green chillies - 2. stemmed, seeded and slit
Water - 2 1/3 - 2 2/3 cups
Salt for rice - to taste
Ground black pepper for rice - to taste
Lemon or lime wedges or twists - 5-6 for garnishing
Coriander leaves - for garnishing

1. Wash, drain and soak the basmati rice in warm water for about 10 minutes.
2. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into quarters, from the round end two-thirds of the way down toward the stem, so that they can be stuffed with spices yet still remain whole.
3. Soak them in a bowl of slightly salted water for 20 minutes, then drain in a wire-mesh strainer.
4. Meanwhile, combine the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and chickpea flour in a heavy frying pan and, stirring, dry-roast them over moderate low heat for about 5 minutes or until the seeds are toasted and the chickpea flour turns reddish brown.
5. Transfer the mixture to an electric coffee mill or a stone mortar and reduce to a powder.
6. Combine the roasted spices, turmeric, red chilli powder, yogurt and 1/3 tsp of salt in a small bowl and mix into a smooth paste. With a knife blade, gently smear the paste equally into the cuts in the eggplants.
7. Heat 3 tbsp of the ghee or oil in a 8-inch non-stick frying pan over low heat. Place all of the eggplants in the pan and cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the eggplants over. Cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove the lid.
8. The eggplants should be butter-soft and evenly browned. If not, turn the eggplants and let them cook for an additional few minutes. Remove and set aside in a warm oven.
9. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of ghee or oil in the pressure cooker over moderate heat until it is hot but not smoking. Toss in the mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter. Then add the urad dal ad fry until the dal is reddish-brown.
10. Drop in the curry leaves and green chilies and fry for 2-3 seconds, following immediately with rice. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the rice grains glisten with ghee. Add water, salt and pepper and pressure cook for one whistle.
11. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork immediately before serving. Spoon into a warmed flat serving platter and garnish the top with a ring of cooked eggplants, the lemon wedges or twists, and coriander in the center.

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