Spicing up eggplant with Indian flavors


January 16, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

My friend Jan isn't a strict vegetarian. She'll eat a good hamburger or cheese steak like the rest of us. But after work hours she reverts to her native-Californian food consciousness. The I'll-eat-almost-anything-by-day woman turns into an evening-vegan.

At least four nights a week she cooks up a meatless meal so she can get her healthful supply of vegetables in the diet, cut the fat and frankly save some money. Because of this she is always hungry for some good vegetarian cookbooks or meatless


This meatless Fastlane Feast is my variation of her adaptation from a vegetarian cookbook. The original eggplant-based dish was awfully bland, getting its individuality from a hard-to-find cheese called Meira, which is made from ewe's milk. Jan pepped up her adaptation with some spices and curry powder. My translation contains the aromatic flavoring from garam masala -- an Indian seasoning made from cloves, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves, coriander and cumin -- as well as a grating of fresh ginger and a -- of sage. The hard-to-find Meira was replaced by either Edam or Gouda.

Instant brown rice, which is ready in a mere 10 minutes, replaces the white rice. And the meal is topped off with whole grain bread and a green salad.

Items you should have in your pantry include: yellow onion, butter or margarine, extra virgin olive oil, sage, garam masala, fresh ginger, salad greens and bottle salad dressing of your choice.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

*1 green pepper

*1 red pepper

*1 pound eggplant

*1 can (14 1/2 ounces) fresh tomatoes

*1 round cheese, Gouda or Edam

*1 box (14 ounces) quick cooking brown rice

Spicy eggplant and cheese

Makes 6 servings.

1 large yellow onion

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 pound eggplant, about 4 cups when cut into cubes

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sage

1 tablespoon garam masala, available in Indian specialty stores

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 round Gouda or Edam cheese, see note

quick cooking brown rice

Peel the onion, cut and remove seeds from the peppers. Slice in the food processor with a 1 millimeter blade or chop fine by hand.

Heat the butter and olive oil on high in a large frying pan until smoking. Saute the sliced onion and peppers until soft, about three minutes. Dice the eggplant, leaving skin on and add to the pan, mixing well.

Add tomatoes, water, sage, garam masala and ginger; bring to boil. Turn heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Place oven rack about 5 inches from broiler. Slice Gouda into small chunks. Sprinkle across the frying pan and put under the broiler a few minutes until the cheese melts. Serve over brown rice.

Note: You can cut the fat without losing too much flavor by using only one half round of the cheese.

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