Punjab Eggplant

I'm an eggplant aficionado. This is most obvious in my prior posts on the subject: Tuscan Eggplant (2/6/15), and Prized Eggplant Recipe (2/20/10). That means I'm always on the lookout for new and innovative eggplant dishes. Recently I was at the neighborhood deli getting my bagel with whitefish when, pursing the store shelves, I happen upon a package of something called "Punjab Eggplant." It had a nice looking picture on it, and a caption that claimed it was the easiest thing to make: just heat and serve. I thought, why not? In retrospect, I should have listened to my wife who always cautions me about buying processed, pre-cooked stuff. But, being a hard-head, I didn't listen. I bought the stuff, took it home, and heated it up.

It was terrible! It had this metallic aftertaste that just clung to my tongue. The thing was awful.

I decided then and there that I would make my own Punjab eggplant. It couldn't possibly be as bad as the store-bought thing. So I queried my Indian friends as to how to prepare the dish. This being the age of the internet, most said, Go on-line, see what you can find. I did just that and came upon a plethora of excess information on Indian eggplant, baingan bharta, burtha bharta, baingan ka bharta, and a host of other arcane trivia that boggled the mind. Generally speaking, "Bharta" refers to a type of North Indian cuisine where ingredients are chopped or mashed before or after the dish is prepared. Punjabi Bharta is Eggplant Bharta prepared in this way. I finally found an acquaintance who gave me a reasonable recipe which I tweeked here and there to come up with the dish given below.

Thus here is my version of Punjab Eggplant, using fresh ingredients, no chemicals, and it sure as hell is better tasting that the packaged stuff. I'm informed that, traditionally, this dish is served with steamed white rice. It makes for a great vegetarian meal.


1 large eggplant
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 green chili, chopped
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (about 1 tablespoon)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Wash the eggplant under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Pierce eggplant in 4-5 places with a sharp knife or fork. Rub with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and bake eggplant until soft, about 30-40 minutes. You can tell the eggplant is soft because it will start to cave in on itself once it's done. Cool, peal the skin, and chop up the flesh, then set aside
3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and cook until they start to crackle and turn golden brown (be careful not to burn the seeds).
4. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, turmeric, coriander, chili, and salt. Cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add eggplant to skillet and cook for 5 minutes more. If the moisture evaporates or it gets too dry, you can sprinkle a little water on it. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.
   Yield: 4 servings.

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