This recipe can’t be called a family favorite, but it is a special summertime treat for those who like vegetables, yogurt, and Indian food. The recipe is from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, one of my first vegetarian cookbooks. Here is what Julie Sahni says about this dish:
This yogurt salad is my absolute favorite. The gentle, smoky pulp of sweet eggplant against smooth, creamy yogurt with a fiery interlude of spices is sensational. I love to eat this salad with pilafs, breads, and especially with a north Indian meal. For a variation you can substitute roasted green, yellow, and red peppers; roasted onions; or roasted shallots—all finely shredded—for the eggplant.
North Indian meals are hard to find at our house so I like Smoked Eggplant and Yogurt Salad with Doctor Kracker Klassic 3-Seed Crispbreads crackers, or Ak-Mak sesame crackers.
1 large eggplant or 2 small ones (total 1 ½ pounds–or substitute/mix peppers, onions, and shallots as above)
1 large tomato, blanched, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 ¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup sour cream
Coarse salt, to taste
3 tablespoons light vegetable oil
1 tablespoon shredded fresh ginger
½ teaspoon or less cayenne pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
1 ½ teaspoons roasted cumin seeds, crushed
Paprika or cayenne for garnish
Wash and wipe the eggplant dry. To roast it, stand it on the burner of a gas stove, stem side up, over a medium-low flame, until the bottom side is thoroughly charred (about 5 minutes). Lay the eggplant on its side and roast, turning it every minute with a pair of tongs until it is fully charred and very soft (about 15 minutes). (Alternately, the eggplant may be roasted in a preheated 500˚F. oven for 20-25 minutes, placed on a cookie sheet in the middle level of the oven.) When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel it (I don’t) and chop the pulp coarsely. Pat dry the pulp with paper towel to rid it of the juice and excess moisture, and put it in a bowl. Add the tomatoes and scallions, and toss to mix well.
Blend the yogurt, sour cream, and salt in another bowl until it is thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Add the ginger and cayenne pepper and let sizzle for 10 seconds. Increase the heat to high and add the eggplant mixture. Fry, turning and tossing, until the tomatoes and scallions look a little fried and the eggplant loses its excess moisture and begins to look drier (about 5 minutes). Turn off the heat. Fold in the coriander and half the cumin. When cool, add it to the yogurt mixture. Stir well to mix. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cumin and paprika or cayenne.
Keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.