Yesterday, I noticed that the interval between the times we eat meat has gotten longer. I mentioned this to Bob and he informed me that he could give it up completely, and never miss it at all. If I ever went that route, I would still eat seafood. And cheese. I have to enjoy a Mt Tam cheese now and then. This recipe for eggplant and potato stew was very good, and it allowed me to play with my new Penzey's herbs and spices. It calls for cumin seeds, bay leaf, garlic, fresh ginger root--but no meat. (I grew up in a house where eating stew always meant there was beef in it.) The smell of all the ingredients as they cooked in this meatless stew was wonderful. They permeated the entire house for hours, the best air freshener possible.
This recipe is from Deborah Madison's The Savory Way. I tend to focus on her recipes from The Green's Cookbook, which is a great resource. The recipes from that book, which are drawn from the restaurant menu, are sometimes labor intensive. In contrast, The Savory Way contains recipes that are less complicated, but just as delicious. This recipe was very easy to make, one of those where you throw the main ingredients into the oven to roast for an hour, giving you time to finish up the other steps at your leisure. Both Bob and I enjoyed it very much, and didn't miss having a meat stew at all.
Eggplant and Potato Stew with Cumin Seeds and Fresh Ginger (Deborah Madison)
1 large firm eggplant (weighing about 1-1/2 pounds)
4 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
3 small russet or red potatoes
2 teaspoons cumin seeds or one teaspoon seeds and one teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons peanut or safflower oil
1 bay leaf
1 large yellow onion cut into 1/2 squares
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 medium sized tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled and seeded, and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup water or juice from the tomatoes
1/2 cup yogurt, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
whole cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut several slits in the eggplant and stuff the garlic into them. Bake the eggplant and the potato on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour or until the eggplant is shriveled and the potatoes or done. The eggplant will be a little firm at the the stem end. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, peel the eggplant and chop the flesh into large chunks. Cut the potatoes, with their skins on, into 1/2 inch chunks.
Roast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until you can smell them--about 10 seconds or so. Grind half of them into a powder and set the whole seeds aside as a garnish.
In a large heavy pan, heat the oil with the bay leaf. When it is hot, add the onion, ground cumin and ginger root. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly colored, 12 to 13 minutes. Add the eggplant, potato, tomatoes, and the liquid and gently combine with the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the stew is thoroughly warm and cooked. Stir in the yogurt and chopped cilantro, leaving marbled streaks throughout. Serve on white or brown rice, if you wish. Garnish with the whole cumin seeds and the cilantro.