|Brinjal Blooms - I like these more than the vegetable :)|
As a child, this was the one vegetable I had exemption from as it would make my throat itch whenever I ate it and I promptly declared to my family that I had a brinjal allergy. The fact that I disliked this vegetable, made me convince myself and others even more vehemently that I was allergic to this one. The reverse also happens. When you like something, you are very hesitant to admit that you are allergic to it, especially if the allergy is a mild one. For example, walnuts give me a slight itch in the throat, but that has never made me refuse a walnut brownie, ever!
So coming back to my relationship with eggplants, I first forayed into the world of roasted eggplant recipes like Bhartha ( I make a mean one), Baba Ganoush (always a star in the Mezze platter) and Kathrikkai Pachidi.
Then came the other entries like Brinjal in Sambar, Rasavaangi (this is a most delightful Tambram recipe with freshly ground coconut based masala) and Yenna Kathrikkai. And now, I am eating this vegetable, sliced and lightly grilled on a stove top grill pan in salads! And totally surprising myself with that.
Brinjal was the first to get planted in our terrace vegetable garden and was the first to flower and fruit. My dad even mocks me that people who come to your house for lunch with get Brinjal curry with Brinjal Sambar and Brinjal Pachidi. (Recipe follows)
I'm not one to go to such extremes though. I pluck off those ready for harvest and if i am not cooking with them, I pass it on to friends or relatives who can enjoy home grown, fresh, organic bounty. There's something about slicing a just plucked tender eggplant, thinly slicing it and placing it on a grill pan greased with olive oil. A minute per side, you get these lovely grill marks and they are done. Ready to be tossed into a salad or had as a starter with some pesto on it. I do the same with long slices of zucchini.
Growing spicy salad greens like arugula (rocket), mustard etc. (Spicy salad mix from Burpee seeds thanks to Nupur) has made me realise how lettuce is the most boring, tasteless of all salad greens. Especially the wilted stuff served in most restaurants. Every leaf in this mix has a bold taste, spicy, pungent, bitter - each of them come with a personality.
I make this salad for my dinner at least twice a week. To make it heartier and more filling, add some boiled chick peas / grilled tofu / grilled chicken / paneer / cooked whole wheat pasta to the salad before tossing.
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Coleman's mustard paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
3 small cloves of garlic - finely grated or mashed to a paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 fresh red chilli deseeded and finely chopped (or green)
Add all the above to a small empty jam jar, shake it up and keep aside.
For the salad
3 small eggplants or half a large eggplant
1 medium cucumber, thick slices into half rounds
2 cups mixed salad greens, washed and dried, torn roughly
1 small red onion, finely sliced (optional)
Add any of the extras given above if you want to have this as a meal.
Handful of mixed fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, sage
Slice the eggplants thinly, not necessarily paper thin. Keep a stove top grill pan on heat. Brush with some olive oil. Arrange the slices in a layer. After one minute you'll see grill marks on the heated side. With a pair of tongs turn all the slices to grill and cook the other side.
Remove onto a plate. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the slices.
In a large bowl, combine the grilled slices with cucumber, torn salad greens and onion.
Give the jam jar one final shake and pour over the salad just before serving, reserving a few spoonfuls to drizzle over the top just before eating.
This makes one big salad or for 2-3 people as a starter to a meal.
Bangalore Shopping guide
Red Wine Vinegar from Nilgiri's Whitefield
Good quality Mixed salad greens at Namdhari's
Excellent fresh herbs at Namdhari's
Stove top grill pan - I have the Premier brand but there are quite a few in the market nowadays. If you don't have a grill pan, by all means use the Tava for this.
Coleman's mustard - Most supermarkets