Conjuring up this dish brings back fond memories of living in a highrise apartment in Jersey City, right along the Hudson River. The whiff of the nigella seeds toasting in oil, reminds me of floating blocks of ice gliding across the river in front of me as I peered out of the large windows framing the Manhattan skyline.
Usually in the evening, with my pots simmering away in my awesome little kitchen – I’d sit near the window and gaze across the river into the city, waiting patiently for my husband to come home. Now, now, don’t get carried away with your imagination, it was not like an Indian movie…and I was surely not wearing a sari. Well not on that day anyway 😉
While I waited, I watched intently at people from various walks of life on the boardwalk below. Mostly, I watched them walk their dogs, a lot of dogs I might add, or I’d see little kids running into the open arms of their parents, or young professionals dashing this way and that, or an old couple walking in silence – comfortable with each others presence that only comes with a life time of being together.
Yet so far away
Smell of the mustard oil
and Nigella seeds
… so far away
A gastronomical experience is by far the best feeling engaging all five senses. A bite of something takes you racing back in time where you experienced that tasty morsel. Hopefully, the memories were good… As were my memories of eating Masala Eggplant in Jersey City…
9 – 10 Indian eggplants
3 tablespoon mustard oil
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like)
¼ teaspooon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
salt to taste
½ teaspoon nigella seeds (also called kalonji)
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Slit the eggplants lengthwise into quarters keeping them intact, not cutting all the way through.
In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of oil with the paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and salt to make a paste.
Smear the insides of the eggplant with the paste. It’s okay if it coats the outside of the eggplant too.
Heat the rest of the oil in a pan and toss in the nigella seeds.
Once the seeds start sizzling and popping, throw in the eggplants.
Cover with a lid and let the eggplants cook, turning them a few times.
You know they are ready if they are slightly soft but not mushy.
Spoon them into a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.
- You may use italian egg plants if you wish, just cut them into really thick circles. They may cook quicker too.
- Try not to let the nigella seeds burn, if they do it’s wise to throw it out and restart with the oil and seeds.
- The eggplant tastes great cold the next day with yogurt and lots of chopped cilantro.