You already know that my family is eggplant challenged. While I adore the firm meaty vegetable that takes on other flavors, I’m alone in my own home. I’ve managed to create a few acceptable dishes over the years but realistically, my family wants it off the menu.
It’s sometimes called brinjal, sometimes aubergine and in my own kitchen, we know it as eggplant. It came to this country via one of our forefathers, Thomas Jefferson, who dabbled as an experimental botanist. Do you know why it is called eggplant? I didn’t until the first small white ones showed up in my CSA. That apparently was the original state and it was most often used as table decor rather than food.
Technically eggplant is a fruit and not an incredibly welcome one, mind you. That could be because it is part of the deadly nightshade family which includes tomatoes and peppers. This food family is often said to be responsible for causing or contributing to inflammation.
The connection between nightshades and inflammation was uncovered largely due to the efforts of Dr. Norman Childers, former Professor of Horticulture at Rutgers University. Dr. Childers began his research based upon his own joint-pain after consuming tomatoes. And his interest in the inflammatory responses to nightshades grew to include our beloved, eggplant. Through his research, Dr. Childers showed that people with stiffness, ache and pain often have a sensitivity to nightshades. Fortunately, I don’t suffer those conditions but should I in the future, I’d experiment with elimination of nightshades.
Historians and botanists and those intersecting the two professions refer to India as the homeland of eggplant. I believe this to be true as it appears in search engines often and frequently brings those seeking eggplant kasundi to my blog – to no avail. Then, Rukmini Roy over at Trumatter offered to help me out so here is her version straight from her grandmother’s kitchen. I did have to invest about $20 in the ingredients for this meal so rest assured, you’ll be seeing these spices again.
Bengali Eggplant with Mustard Seeds
1 large eggplant, cut ends off and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 Tbs black mustard seeds, powdered in a coffee grinder
1 cup water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4-5 Tbs mustard oil
1 Tbs panch pharon mix (equal parts of whole cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, kalunji seeds)
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 tsp salt
sprinkle black pepper
cardamon powder (optional)
Soak ground mustard seed and cayenne in one cup of water. Cut up eggplant into cubes. Heat mustard oil, put in panch pharon mix and after a few seconds add the black mustard/cayenne water. This will splatter so have a cover ready. Add eggplant and cook. You will probably need to add additional water as the eggplant cooks to keep its level about the same, perhaps another cup. Cover it for the last ten minutes.
When the eggplant is cooked add a cup of yogurt and the salt. Mix and heat up yogurt, but do not allow it to boil. Sprinkle a tiny bit of black pepper and cardamon over the top if you want. This dish also tastes good cold the next day.
The rule in my house is that you’re home for Sunday dinner. Bring anyone you like but be in your seat when the meal is served. It’s a Kasundi Sunday today. There’s an extra place set for you.