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Eggplant Chickpea Pilaf July 21, 2009

Filed under: Indian,rice,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:11 pm
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Down at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, my usual foraging turf, I find a number of local gems.  Ringger Family Farm, located in Bastrop County, makes soap with milk from their own herd of sustainably raised goats and grows beautiful jewel-like little eggplants.  I can’t get enough of their lavender and white striated, friendly-flavored finger-length delights.  And the cute, round, green and white-striped Thai orbs are a crunchy sweet treat when quickly stir-fried.  These folks also grow “tame” jalapenos for those of us whose capsaicin tolerance has been weakened by the proscriptions of our brood.

I could probably eat diced eggplant fried in olive oil almost every day in season.  Thankfully they are not available locally year round—although I anxiously await the first harvest at the beginning of every summer.  Before frying, I toss eggplant cubes with a little salt and some turmeric and let them sit for a few minutes.  After cooking, I refrigerate the used oil for sauteing veggies or brushing onto tortillas for quesadillas.

Here’s a vegetarian meal in a skillet that takes advantage of our local bounty of eggplants:

EGGPLANT CHICKPEA PILAF

  • 1 cup basmati rice–I like the Indian and Pakistani brands in the large fabric bags.

Rinse the rice well in three changes of water, then drain and soak in about 1 1/2 cups fresh water for 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve, reserving soaking water and adding enough to measure 1 3/4 cups water.

  • 8 small, slim, gorgeously young and fresh eggplants, beheaded and and quartered lengthwise.

Toss the eggplant pieces with about 1 teaspoon turmeric and a generous pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, preferably organic (Whole Foods and Central Market offer their own brands at good prices), drained.  Don’t bother to rinse the beans.  Jacques Pépin doesn’t.
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons oil or ghee.  I like organic coconut oil, of course.
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 4 green), slightly crushed with the handle of your kitchen knife
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 0r 2 whole dried red chiles
  • 1/4 teaspoon kalonji (nigella), optional
  • 1/2 teasoon asafetida, optional
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 whole green jalapeno, optional
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled or ground in a mortar with a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (seeds)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt

Heat oil and whole spices (through kalonji) in a 12″ skillet on medium-high heat.  Fry spices until browning and fragrant, then add asafetida and quickly dump in the onions.  Cook the onions, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary, until browning agreeably.  Add the eggplant pieces and the whole jalapeno and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is browned.  Add the drained rice and garlic.  Continue cooking and stirring until the rice grains separate and lose their translucency.  Add the drained beans and the remaining ingredients plus the reserved water and turn the heat to high to quickly bring the mixture to a boil.  Give it a final stir, turn the heat to low, and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.  Don’t eat the whole spices.  Remove them from the pan if you have the opportunity–otherwise just warn your diners.

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blueberry chutney

Filed under: blueberries,Indian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:15 pm
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I can’t think of a snappy title this time.  But here’s a great chutney that shows off Texas ingredients in season right now.  Our local  farmers markets are offering plenty of organic options for onions, garlic and blueberries.  And those Texas pears!  If you steer clear of these rather rustic fruits on account of their tough hides or occasionally granular insides, I urge you to give ’em a try.  Let them ripen up to a yielding texture–they may still feel surprisingly firm–and peel that thick skin off.  These pears can be really luscious, and may even surprise your palate with a hint of walnut!  This recipe is very customizable.  It’s like a choose your own texture adventure.

BLUEBERRY CHUTNEY

  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tablespoons oil–organic virgin coconut is good.  Whole Foods brand is usually the best buy.  Most nut oils and any neutral oil would be fine.
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds.  If you have only yellow, that will do.
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole dried red chiles–crush them if you want the heat.
  • 2 small or 1 medium-ish onion,  sliced thin or chopped medium fine, you decide.  Choose your color, too.  Mix it up if you want.  Pairing a red and a sweet yellow worked great for me.
  • 1 large clove of garlic, prepped as you please.  From whole or whole smashed to pressed or any form in between.
  • a pecan shell-size finger of ginger, preferably organic and domestic.  You can fine shred, microplane or mince this.  By the way, I almost never peel ginger.  Don’t tell anyone.  On second thought, tell everybody!
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium-sized Texas pear (about 5 ounces), hard or ripe, peeled, cored and diced medium or fine or shredded thick or thin.
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins–I love the Central Market Bulk raisins.
  • 1/4-1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 80 grams (about 3/8 cup plus a scant teaspoon) turbinado sugar
  • 1 pint organic Texas blueberries–about $4 still at our farmers markets and Central Market–rinsed and drained.  Don’t bother to dry them.

Heat your oil and whole spices in 10″ to 12″ skillet on medium high heat.  Let the spices toast and the mustard seeds pop. Add the onions.  Stir and cook the onions to brown them nicely.  Adjust the heat as necessaryStir in your garlic and lightly brown it if you like.  Stir in the ginger.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium-low to medium heat about 20 minutes,  until the chutney has thickened well and the blueberries are as popped as you please.  Add a dash of water if it’s thickening up too soon.  Don’t eat the whole spices if you can help it!

You’ll love the royal hue of this sweet condiment.  Eat it with the usual kebabs and pilafs or try some on a tangy cheese.  Enjoy the Texas bounty!