If you're an artichoke and spinach dip lover and don't feel guilty about the calories, baigan bharta is for you. Eggplants are chopped into small pieces, boiled until softened and drained. Then they are sautéed in oil until all the liquid has evaporated. After that, the eggplants are flavored with onions and many Indian spices. Once the mixture cools completely, yogurt is added and folded into the eggplant mixture. Raw onion is also added for a little bite to the Indian-style dip. Though non-traditional, I also add fromage blanc, which helps give a creamy and rich texture to the dip; it's also lower in calories and has less cholesterol than cream cheese.
Today was Game 1 of the World Series, featuring our hometown San Francisco Giants. I made this dish and served it with warm tortillas chips for Lulu and the girls to munch on while they watched the game. I don’t understand baseball, but I can definitely say that the food was a home run. That’s a baseball term, right?
Servings: 6 servings
1 large eggplant
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
(click on the link for the recipe)
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander, freshly ground
½ teaspoon ground cumin, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 green Thai bird chiles, whole
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
½ cup fromage blanc (see tips)
1 package tortilla chips, warm
Dice the eggplant into large chunks, leaving the skin on. In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a full boil. Add the eggplant. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until soft and tender.
Drain the eggplant using a fine mesh colander. Discard the liquid. Place all the eggplant pulp in a cheese-cloth and remove as much excess water as possible.
In a large colander, place the eggplant pulp in a double-layered cheese cloth. Wrap it and make a knot at the tip and suspend it over the colander using chopsticks. The colander is not essential but is quite convenient if the knot breaks, so you can gather the eggplant again in the cheese cloth without starting over. Let it sit for about an hour. Drain as much liquid as possible.
Reserve about 1 tablespoon of raw onions; cook the rest. In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion. Cook about 6-8 minutes, until the onion is soft and slightly golden. Add the ginger garlic paste. Cook until it's fragrant. Add the eggplant, ground coriander, cumin powder, ¼ teaspoon paprika, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Stir for about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons green bell pepper, whole green Thai chiles and 2 tablespoons each of mint and cilantro. Stir constantly so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom the pan. Season with salt. Mash the eggplant using a potato masher or a fork until all the eggplant pulp is puréed. Remove from the heat. Let the eggplant cool completely.
Cover and chill the eggplant mixture in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt until smooth. Add the fromage blanc. Whisk well so the texture is even.
Before serving, remove the eggplant from the refrigerator ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature. Add the rest of the bell pepper, remaining mint and the reserved chopped onion. Adjust seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the yogurt and fromage blanc mixture into the eggplant mixture. Drizzle with lemon juice.
Garnish with mint leaves and a sprinkle of paprika.
Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.
I buy fromage blanc at a local market, called the Milk Pail Market. The address is 2585 California Street, Mountain View, California. If you don't have any, you could substitute low-fat cream cheese for the fromage blanc.
I buy smoked paprika at a local store, Crossroads World Market -720 San Antonio Road -Palo Alto, CA 94303. You can also find it online.