Farm Fresh is an Indian grocery in Artesia. It's on Pioneer Boulevard in the heart of Little India's shopping district. Walking on to Rasa, a block or so away, I found still more of these miniatures.
That did it. I had to have them, even though I had no idea what to do with them.
But I do now, thanks to my friend Mira Advani Honeycutt, who is chairperson of the Los Angeles Mumbai Sister Cities Affiliation and can cook almost anything Indian.
We had been touring Little India (see the previous post) and had eaten a Gujarati lunch, and so she gave me a Gujarati recipe.
Mira stuffs the eggplant with spices, including generous amounts of ground cumin and coriander (I used a cumin and coriander blend from Gujarat that I bought at Farm Fresh). Adding besan (chickpea flour) to the spices makes the dish Gujarati, she said.
Still in the mood of my vegetarian lunch that day, I served the eggplants with mixed vegetables seasoned with garlic and ginger, turmeric and garam masala; yellow rice scented with cardamom and yogurt, or curd, as they say in India.
The dessert: what else but sweets from Little India.
GUJARATI BAINGAN MASALA
Gujarati Style Spiced Eggplant
8 small eggplant, 3/4 to 1 pound in all
2 teaspoons besan (chickpea flour), optional
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 pinch to 1/4 teaspoon ground red chile
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch gingerroot, peeled and cut lengthwise in thin strips
6 or 7 curry leaves, optional
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, unpeeled, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons water, if needed
1/2 lemon or lime
Cilantro for garnish
Wash the eggplants. Remove most of the stem end, but leave enough of the base attached to hold the eggplants together.
Stand each eggplant on its base and cut a slit through the center 3/4 of the way down. Now cut another slit at right angles, dividing the eggplant into quarters, but leaving them attached to the base. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the besan, cumin, coriander, garam masala, red chile and black pepper.
Carefully separate each eggplant slightly and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the masala into the center. Reserve any unused masala.
Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold the eggplants in a single layer. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and the curry leaves and cook until the onion is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato and salt. Place the eggplants in the skillet and sprinkle with any leftover masala. Stir gently to combine. Cover and cook over medium low heat 10 minutes. Uncover and turn the eggplants over. If the vegetables stick to the pan, add a small amount of water.
Cover and cook 10 minutes longer, or until the eggplants are tender. Uncover and squeeze lemon juice to taste over them. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.
Makes 4 servings.
Farm Fresh, 18551 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia, CA 90701. Tel: (562) 865-3191.