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Cumin-Scented Eggplant with Pomegranate and Cilantro

Cumin-Scented Eggplant with Pomegranate and Cilantro



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Pomegranate seeds give this recipe color and a juicy bite. What's not to love?

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pomegranate molasses* (for drizzling)
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Recipe Preparation

  • Stir 5 cups water and 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt in large bowl to dissolve salt. Add eggplant slices. Place plate on eggplant to submerge; let soak 1 hour. Drain eggplant; pat dry.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sauté eggplant until brown in spots and softened, 2 minutes per side. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls as needed; arrange eggplant in single layer on baking sheet.

  • Mix cumin and cayenne. Sprinkle eggplant with cumin mixture. Roast until golden and cooked through, 30 minutes.

  • Remove eggplant from oven; sprinkle with garlic. Arrange eggplant on platter and drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and cilantro over. Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • *A thick pomegranate syrup; available at some supermarkets, at Middle Eastern markets, and from adrianascaravan.com.

Recipe by Marlena Spieler,Reviews Section

A Great Miracle Happened Here

In a flash, the next holiday moves in. On deck - Chanukah, with accents of holiday parties everywhere. Tonight, it was our second annual Latke Festival. The beloved, simple latke ascends the main stage as the featured food of the Festival of Lights. Why the celebration? In the course of routing the invading forces and liberating the country and the Temple, the oil that was supposed to last for just a day, burned for 8 days (allowing enough time to harvest olives and turn them into oil). The miracle of the oil was commemorated with the consumption of various types of fried food - from jelly filled donuts, to fried cheese or other vegetable items. How exactly that morphed to fried potatoes doesn't matter but potato latkes evolved with the introduction of potatoes to (Eastern) Europe, and are prominent in the cuisine of Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Czech, Ukraine and more. And you don't have to be Jewish to love the taste of shredded potatoes with some combination of eggs, matzoh meal/flour, onions, salt & pepper and sizzling oil. along with select secret ingredients I have heard about such as duck fat, schmaltz, garlic, and other items too secret to mention here.

Back to our festival - marrying culinary creativity with the peasant food of a holiday that plays second fiddle to Christmas the chefs of Great Performances, and one non-chef (me), each took a country and interpreted what its latke would look like.

Israel was the country my team and I represented. How to spin that into an interpretive latke experience? After all, it is the birthplace of the tradition, so how do you improve upon creation? We settled on a biblical reference: "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates a land of olive-trees and honey" (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)
Our interpretation:
Wheat - the flour we used in mixing into the grated potato, egg and onion. So to make it a little special, we added a poached quail egg on top!
Barley - mixed with indigenous mint and apple
Pomegranate - an eggplant caponata with pomegranate seeds in place of capers, a dish very typical of Mediterranean cuisine
Olives - classic tapenade with black and white sesame seeds
Dates - date puree on top a thick Mediterranean yogurt mixed with cumin and coriander and a drizzle of honey
Fig - roasted balsamic fig atop a dollop of crème fraiche
Grape - slivers of green and red grapes, mixed with pine nuts with a little pear puree on the bottom.

Executive Chef Marc Spooner, representing Russia: "I decide to put my Southern slant on the Russian latke by making it into a "tater tot" which was cooked potatoes, that were shredded, roll in potato chips and pan fried. I topped it with a smoked salmon crème fraiche and beet tops."

Sous Chef Matthew Riznyk, featuring China: "My latke was inspired by one of my favorite Chinatown cheap eats the sesame pancake with roast pork. I decided to use the GGS base (ginger, garlic, scallion) prevalent in so many great Chinese dishes, along with daikon, potato, and sesame in the latkes themselves. When making at home you can fill with anything you'd like, top with shredded carrot, cucumber, and cilantro for brightness and crunch and throw a little sriracha aioli on there if you're feeling frisky!" (Pork on a latke?!)

Executive Chef for GP at the Plaza, Jack Kiggins (and winner of the 2010 competition): "I chose Cuba because I felt was the opposite direction from the norm. Latkes when being well prepared often rely on a sauce (apple) or topping (sour cream) to give something extra. Ropa Viejas being a traditional dish from Cuba I felt would give the guests a little something unexpected. I topped that with an ancho chili cream and finished with some micro cilantro. The crispy potato, cumin scented brisket, the cooling ancho cream with freshness of micro cilantro all seemed to work."

We expected about 150 guests at City Winery, and 30 minutes into the event, it was clear that twice as many showed up. But multiples are part of the Chanukah tale, so food for a few would have to last to feed many. As the queues circled the room, the tempo of the frying oil accelerated. It was a miracle - the latkes keep on coming and people kept on eating. The lines were LONG, and I was shocked to see a space so jammed packed with latke aficionados, many a long way from home and longing for a taste of comfort. While waiting for a latke, some described the latkes their moms made. It was heartwarming to have our compared to hers!

Barely halfway through the 3-hour event - when it felt like I had fried a zillion latkes with no end in sight - I swore I would never do this again. In fact, I considered never eating a latke again. I had visions of the crowd, impossible to satiate, demanding a refund - or even worse - another stack of latkes. I envisioned the oil permeating my entire being and never washing away. I was in awe of my teammates, Sally, Stella and Jon, totally engrossed in describing the topping options over and over and over again, without ever losing their patience or smiles.

Finally, the crowd subsided, satisfied - another miracle. Panic averted, fun returned. We each sampled a latke or two, weighing our topping options. Finally, the room emptied, we broke down, packed up and made our way to a quiet bar counter for a glass of wine. We started writing notes for next year's festival and how to improve it. We even segued from dreaming about Latke to our annual winter Vodka Festival!

Sally: "Next Time: Come up with a full-blown campaign. Catch phrase. Hand symbol (Think: Earth Day "E"). Iconic symbol. (I got the idea too late in the game this time to stencil Israel's Star of David on each latke. Ha!)"
Stella: "Favorite moment: when a group of latke lovers told me that the votes had been rigged and we were the actual winners. Oh yes!"
Jon: "The only thing that topped the fierceness of the competition was the fierceness of the guests appetites as they consumed several hundred lbs of potatoes."

Tomorrow it will be back to the business of holiday parties, wondering about the economic climate and a million other tasks and obligations. For a few hours today, it was sort of magical to be swept up in a frenzy that commemorated an event from ancient times. Celebrating the Maccabean victory through food eclipses the story of the fight against oppression and the struggle for national and religious freedom to say the least. It is the nature of holidays in our culture - where the deeper message is lost in contemporary observances that celebrate symbolic rituals or icons (like the latke or extreme shopping).

But this was a festival that combined love of traditions, with communal celebration and a cross cultural gathering of people wanting to share the holiday season of peace, love and of course, food! In the grand scheme of things, that works for me.


View the recipes from all of the Latke Festival contestants!


Spicy Eggplant (Masala Baingan)

The rhythmic chanting and the tabla beat, heightened by a heady aroma of jasmine and cardamom, took me back to my summer holidays in Bombay at my grandmother’s home. Stirring in her magic along with sugar, ghee and cream of wheat, Mama would whip up prasad, a soft, warm halvah-type dessert made on auspicious occasions and religious holidays.

Years later, here I was in India, my native land, reminiscing about my maternal grandmother, affectionately known to all as Mama. Family members had gathered here from around the globe (from the U.S. and England to Africa, Southeast Asia and India itself) to celebrate and remember Mama’s birth centenary this winter. And it was a perfect occasion to introduce my American husband not only to the entire clan but also to my country and its customs.

Although she passed on in 1971, Mama’s spirit has remained a big part of our family. In memory of Sardar Tirath Singh Lalvani (my grandfather) and Sardarni Dharamkaur (Mama), the family tree, in the tasteful silver and white invitation, listed 13 children, 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. The homage to our matriarch was staged with an elaborate religious ceremony and a three-day feast, which turned out to be a virtual cook’s tour of the subcontinent.

Mama could conjure up just about every Indian regional dish however, it was her simple yet delicious Sindhi cooking that is most memorable to me. Sindh was a part of northwest India until after the 1947 partition, when it was absorbed into Pakistan. The region was also the seat of an earlier civilization that flourished from 2600 to 1900 BC along the Indus river that flows between India and Pakistan.

When I think of Mama, I think of her signature Sindhi dishes--pomfret fragrant with fresh fenugreek and garlic, chicken dressed in bunches of cilantro and tomatoes, masala bhindi (spicy okra) and sai bhaji (spinach with lentils and vegetables). I recall her traditional Sunday lunch--a large pot of besan (chickpea flour) curry would be set on the stove first thing in the morning. A medley of vegetables would find their way into that pot--lotus root, eggplant, okra, potatoes, green beans and carrots. This curry would be served with cumin-scented basmati rice, yogurt raita and an assortment of kachris (sun-dried vegetables that are deep-fried like pappadums).

On any given Sunday, 15 or 20 people would stop by to share this traditional meal. Mama shared the abundance of her kitchen with everyone--from ambassadors and movie stars to friends and neighbors.

As a kick-off to the three-day ceremony, the family gathered in the hotel suite of Uncle Partap. After a sumptuous dinner that included a few of Mama’s favorite dishes--shrimp masala, chicken korma, paneer bhurji and hot tandoori roti--followed by a round of family photographs, we settled down to share Mama’s food stories.

“Her favorite,” said Aunt Mohini from Punjab, “was mundi and ani” (fish heads and fish roe).

“Rhubarb,” added cousin Ramona from Singapore. “Mama always used rhubarb to add tartness to her curries.”

“Apples for thickening the curries,” said Aunt Padma from London.

And you know her secret for reviving leftovers? I asked. A bunch of fresh spinach--and voila, there was sai bhaji, a staple of every Sindhi meal. The consensus at the end of the evening was this--she cooked with love and loved to feed people.

The three-day affair centered on Akhand Path, a Sikh ceremony where a team of priests, over a 48-hour period, takes turns reading the 1,428-page Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

The setting was the Qutab Colonnade owned by Aunt Bina and her Canadian husband, Georges. The 100-year old Colonial building, accented with Mughal touches, is adjacent to one of Delhi’s famous monuments, the Qutab Minar (a 12th-century tower of victory erected to signal the advent of Mughal rule in India).

Groves of banana, peepul and ashoka trees mingled with bursts of bougainvillea and embraced the courtyard anchored by a wise old tamarind tree. From it hung long delicate strands of jasmine and roses that gently swayed to the rhythm of the tabla and harmonium. Pedestal fans nestled between potted palms circulated Delhi’s unusually warm November air. Aromas of cumin, cloves and cinnamon wafting from the makeshift kitchen brought back memories of Mama--the matriarch whose strength was much like the solid tamarind tree, her love like the canopy of branches sheltering the family below.

Although Mama was fond of lamb, chicken and seafood, the family opted for a complete vegetarian menu more in keeping with the religious ceremony. During the first two days, the lunch and dinner menu consisted of simple dishes like bhindi aloo (okra with potatoes), spicy karela (bitter gourd), gobi-anardhana (cauliflower with pomegranate seeds), sprouted lentil salad.

Also included were a couple of regional dishes--the typically southern idli (steamed rice dumplings) and sambhar (spicy lentils) and, from the Punjab, sarson ka saag (creamed mustard greens) and makki ki roti (flat corn bread), served with butter and jaggery.

The vegetarian meal was washed down with nonalcoholic drinks such as coconut water, zeera pani (spicy cumin water) and fresh juices--carrot and mausami (yellow-tinged orange). Cinnamon and cardamom-scented chai accompanied a dessert of gulab jamun and chunks of fresh papaya and pineapple.

Glass and gold bangles jangled, anklets jingled. Cousins and aunts looked serenely beautiful in shimmering saris and elegant tunics, their silk scarves gently billowing as they bowed at the altar for the final Sunday ceremony. Uncles looked gallant in their silk kurtas (knee-length shirts), handsomely embroidered vests and starched turbans. The eternal flame cocooned inside a lantern illuminated the portrait of my grandparents that sat regally near the holy book, swathed in vibrant silks.

Behind this serene exterior, there was a flurry of activity. In a tent, an army of cooks was busy--firing the tandoor, immersing pooris in hot oil to puff, drizzling yogurt dip on discs of fried eggplant and lacing strands of saffron on rice pilaf. A large tava (griddle), cradled rows of assorted bharvan (stuffed vegetables)--baby bitter gourds nestled against bell peppers, okra and eggplant, plump with a nutty mixture of cashews and paneer. A shiny brass pot was filled with silky saag. Another held cubed potatoes studded with cumin seeds.

Since Mama was a global grandma (she resided in London the last 20 years of her life and traveled frequently between Europe and India), we decided to include regional and international dishes in the elaborate Sunday buffet. There were Hyderabadi vegetarian biryani and mirchi ka salan (fiery hot green pepper curry), vegetarian Thai curry served with glass noodles and, from the south, lemon rice and avial (vegetables in coconut sauce).

As guests mingled, some bidding their traditional long Indian goodbyes, I made my getaway up to the Colonnade’s terrace and took in the vast sprawling city, its tombs and pillars randomly scattered around the majestic Qutab Minar. In my moment of quiet, I remembered Mama.


With a 13-foot-long custom grill that dominates the kitchen, downtown Palo Alto’s Rooh serves up contemporary Indian cuisine licked by plenty of flames and smoke.

It also mixes in some very unconventional ingredients in its dishes, such as goat cheese, cheddar cheese, polenta, and Japanese togarashi. But executive chef Sujan Sarkar, who oversees this Palo Alto restaurant along with its sister San Francisco outpost, somehow makes it all work.

To get a feel for what this grill can do, order the roasted eggplant ($14). It’s as smoky tasting as the best baba ganoush, with an equally spoonable texture. The whole slender eggplant is covered in cumin-scented yogurt, pickled onion, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

Pork belly (front), and roasted eggplant (back).

Garlic naan ($15) is the perfect vehicle to spread this creamy roasted eggplant on. Or smear it on the pao ($16), pull-apart, fluffy soft rolls that come with a sweet-tangy, chunky heirloom tomato kut.


With a 13-foot-long custom grill that dominates the kitchen, downtown Palo Alto’s Rooh serves up contemporary Indian cuisine licked by plenty of flames and smoke.

It also mixes in some very unconventional ingredients in its dishes, such as goat cheese, cheddar cheese, polenta, and Japanese togarashi. But executive chef Sujan Sarkar, who oversees this Palo Alto restaurant along with its sister San Francisco outpost, somehow makes it all work.

To get a feel for what this grill can do, order the roasted eggplant ($14). It’s as smoky tasting as the best baba ganoush, with an equally spoonable texture. The whole slender eggplant is covered in cumin-scented yogurt, pickled onion, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

Pork belly (front), and roasted eggplant (back).

Garlic naan ($15) is the perfect vehicle to spread this creamy roasted eggplant on. Or smear it on the pao ($16), pull-apart, fluffy soft rolls that come with a sweet-tangy, chunky heirloom tomato kut.


New Year

I’ve been skiing. Therefore, I have either not been cooking or have not been writing about it.

However, I made the hoppin’ john for New Year’s Day. It was random and largely improvised and I’m not entirely happy with how it turned out. Nonetheless, everyone ate it up, yum!, either because skiing makes everything delicious, or because everyone was very polite.

Basically, I heated a little oil (I would have used butter, but I wasn’t sure about the dietary preferences of the audience and the oil was handy) in a pan and sauteed the aromatics (I had fresh garlic, some onion and a little celery on hand). While those were becomming fragrant, I divided the black eyed peas (which were of the frozen sort, a type I had never used before and which worked just fine) into vegetarian and nonvegetarian pots.

The vegetarian pot had veggie broth and a minced jalepeno. I stewed that for a while, adding rice after about ten minutes (the rice on hand was the quick-cooking converted type, which I never use and probably won’t switch to, because it has an odd texture to it, I think, no matter how much liquid it sits in), and dumping in a couple diced roma tomatoes.

The nonvegetarian broth had generous handfuls of a chopped up leftover spiral cut ham, as well as a chicken boullion cube. I did not add the rice to this pot (this decision was based upon available pot and burner space. I made 3-4 times as much ham-peas as I made veggie-peas and the logistics worked out better this way), but I did add the diced tomatoes.

I divided the aromatics between the pots of peas and seasoned each with (not enough) salt and pepper. Served it with cornbread and additional jalepeno slices for garnish.

This is pretty much how I make all one pot bean/pea/legume rice dishes, although the aromatics, spices and additional vegetable matter differ from dish to dish. I forget that I can cook on the fly and it’s nice when I just shut up and do it and everyone eats it up, yum!



Buy the book here. Thanks for supporting this site!

Shredded Beef Filling, any variation, serve on salad or with steamed vegetables, squash, or sweet potatoes, p. 66
Salsa Verde Beef – read label on your green salsa, p. 68
Mexican Tortas, serve on a salad or with vegetables, p. 71
Mediterranean Style Steak, p. 76
Seasoned Steak without the Gorgonzola butter, p. 78
Vegetable Bolognese, p. 83
Sweet and Spicy Joe’s – no sugar, p.91
Boules de Picolat, serve with Sweet Potatoes instead of white potatoes, p. 101
Any of the cooked chicken variations, pp. 104-107
Chicken stock – better than a can!, p. 108
Spicy Southwest Chicken – omit the soy sauce, p. 111
Spicy Dijon Chicken, p. 114
Garlicky Italian Chicken Breasts, p. 117
Chicken Caesar Salad, no cheese or croutons, p. 116
Roast Turkey, be sure to have sweet potatoes, p. 136
Tarragon Turkey Burgers, no cheese, no bun, use homemade mayo, p. 139
Tarragon-Lemon Rubbed Fish, p. 146
Grilled Tilapia and Shrimp Taco Salad, serve with guac instead of yogurt sauce, p.147
Carnitas, serve as salad, p. 152
Southwest pork chops, p. 153
Pork chile verde (no hominy, read the green salsa label), p. 154
Cranberry pork chops – use oil for the butter, omit sugar, p. 155
Pulled Pork with Cumin-Scented Cabbage Salad instead of Asian slaw, p. 160
Caribbean pork tenderloin with mango salsa, p. 163
Herb crusted pork roast, p. 165
Homemade pork sausage patties, use coconut oil for butter, p. 173
Red sauce with sausage, p. 174
Wild boar sausage with spicy tomato sauce, p. 177
Easy stovetop ratatouille, p. 188
Tomato sauce with Oregano and Kalamata Olives, p. 201
Quick and Spicy Marinara, p. 202
Easy Slow Cooker Red Sauce, p. 205
Chicken Cacciatore Stew, p. 224
Irish Stew, no potatoes, use Rutabagas instead, no flour, p. 225
Beef Stew with Eggplant and Carrots, p. 226
Hearty Beef stew with Olives, sub chili powder for enchilada sauce, p. 227
Quick and Easy Texas Chili, p. 229
Slow cooker Applesauce, p. 279
Chile and Sausage Frittata, no cheese, p. 278

My second cookbook, Good Cheap Eats, was written while I was doing the Whole 30. Many of the recipes are very adaptable to the diet.


Okra with Potatoes (Bhindi-Aloo)

The rhythmic chanting and the tabla beat, heightened by a heady aroma of jasmine and cardamom, took me back to my summer holidays in Bombay at my grandmother’s home. Stirring in her magic along with sugar, ghee and cream of wheat, Mama would whip up prasad, a soft, warm halvah-type dessert made on auspicious occasions and religious holidays.

Years later, here I was in India, my native land, reminiscing about my maternal grandmother, affectionately known to all as Mama. Family members had gathered here from around the globe (from the U.S. and England to Africa, Southeast Asia and India itself) to celebrate and remember Mama’s birth centenary this winter. And it was a perfect occasion to introduce my American husband not only to the entire clan but also to my country and its customs.

Although she passed on in 1971, Mama’s spirit has remained a big part of our family. In memory of Sardar Tirath Singh Lalvani (my grandfather) and Sardarni Dharamkaur (Mama), the family tree, in the tasteful silver and white invitation, listed 13 children, 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. The homage to our matriarch was staged with an elaborate religious ceremony and a three-day feast, which turned out to be a virtual cook’s tour of the subcontinent.

Mama could conjure up just about every Indian regional dish however, it was her simple yet delicious Sindhi cooking that is most memorable to me. Sindh was a part of northwest India until after the 1947 partition, when it was absorbed into Pakistan. The region was also the seat of an earlier civilization that flourished from 2600 to 1900 BC along the Indus river that flows between India and Pakistan.

When I think of Mama, I think of her signature Sindhi dishes--pomfret fragrant with fresh fenugreek and garlic, chicken dressed in bunches of cilantro and tomatoes, masala bhindi (spicy okra) and sai bhaji (spinach with lentils and vegetables). I recall her traditional Sunday lunch--a large pot of besan (chickpea flour) curry would be set on the stove first thing in the morning. A medley of vegetables would find their way into that pot--lotus root, eggplant, okra, potatoes, green beans and carrots. This curry would be served with cumin-scented basmati rice, yogurt raita and an assortment of kachris (sun-dried vegetables that are deep-fried like pappadums).

On any given Sunday, 15 or 20 people would stop by to share this traditional meal. Mama shared the abundance of her kitchen with everyone--from ambassadors and movie stars to friends and neighbors.

As a kick-off to the three-day ceremony, the family gathered in the hotel suite of Uncle Partap. After a sumptuous dinner that included a few of Mama’s favorite dishes--shrimp masala, chicken korma, paneer bhurji and hot tandoori roti--followed by a round of family photographs, we settled down to share Mama’s food stories.

“Her favorite,” said Aunt Mohini from Punjab, “was mundi and ani” (fish heads and fish roe).

“Rhubarb,” added cousin Ramona from Singapore. “Mama always used rhubarb to add tartness to her curries.”

“Apples for thickening the curries,” said Aunt Padma from London.

And you know her secret for reviving leftovers? I asked. A bunch of fresh spinach--and voila, there was sai bhaji, a staple of every Sindhi meal. The consensus at the end of the evening was this--she cooked with love and loved to feed people.

The three-day affair centered on Akhand Path, a Sikh ceremony where a team of priests, over a 48-hour period, takes turns reading the 1,428-page Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

The setting was the Qutab Colonnade owned by Aunt Bina and her Canadian husband, Georges. The 100-year old Colonial building, accented with Mughal touches, is adjacent to one of Delhi’s famous monuments, the Qutab Minar (a 12th-century tower of victory erected to signal the advent of Mughal rule in India).

Groves of banana, peepul and ashoka trees mingled with bursts of bougainvillea and embraced the courtyard anchored by a wise old tamarind tree. From it hung long delicate strands of jasmine and roses that gently swayed to the rhythm of the tabla and harmonium. Pedestal fans nestled between potted palms circulated Delhi’s unusually warm November air. Aromas of cumin, cloves and cinnamon wafting from the makeshift kitchen brought back memories of Mama--the matriarch whose strength was much like the solid tamarind tree, her love like the canopy of branches sheltering the family below.

Although Mama was fond of lamb, chicken and seafood, the family opted for a complete vegetarian menu more in keeping with the religious ceremony. During the first two days, the lunch and dinner menu consisted of simple dishes like bhindi aloo (okra with potatoes), spicy karela (bitter gourd), gobi-anardhana (cauliflower with pomegranate seeds), sprouted lentil salad.

Also included were a couple of regional dishes--the typically southern idli (steamed rice dumplings) and sambhar (spicy lentils) and, from the Punjab, sarson ka saag (creamed mustard greens) and makki ki roti (flat corn bread), served with butter and jaggery.

The vegetarian meal was washed down with nonalcoholic drinks such as coconut water, zeera pani (spicy cumin water) and fresh juices--carrot and mausami (yellow-tinged orange). Cinnamon and cardamom-scented chai accompanied a dessert of gulab jamun and chunks of fresh papaya and pineapple.

Glass and gold bangles jangled, anklets jingled. Cousins and aunts looked serenely beautiful in shimmering saris and elegant tunics, their silk scarves gently billowing as they bowed at the altar for the final Sunday ceremony. Uncles looked gallant in their silk kurtas (knee-length shirts), handsomely embroidered vests and starched turbans. The eternal flame cocooned inside a lantern illuminated the portrait of my grandparents that sat regally near the holy book, swathed in vibrant silks.

Behind this serene exterior, there was a flurry of activity. In a tent, an army of cooks was busy--firing the tandoor, immersing pooris in hot oil to puff, drizzling yogurt dip on discs of fried eggplant and lacing strands of saffron on rice pilaf. A large tava (griddle), cradled rows of assorted bharvan (stuffed vegetables)--baby bitter gourds nestled against bell peppers, okra and eggplant, plump with a nutty mixture of cashews and paneer. A shiny brass pot was filled with silky saag. Another held cubed potatoes studded with cumin seeds.

Since Mama was a global grandma (she resided in London the last 20 years of her life and traveled frequently between Europe and India), we decided to include regional and international dishes in the elaborate Sunday buffet. There were Hyderabadi vegetarian biryani and mirchi ka salan (fiery hot green pepper curry), vegetarian Thai curry served with glass noodles and, from the south, lemon rice and avial (vegetables in coconut sauce).

As guests mingled, some bidding their traditional long Indian goodbyes, I made my getaway up to the Colonnade’s terrace and took in the vast sprawling city, its tombs and pillars randomly scattered around the majestic Qutab Minar. In my moment of quiet, I remembered Mama.


How do I make Baingan Bharta Pasta?

  1. Once the eggplants have collapsed on the stove with a steamy sigh it is time to concentrate on getting the rest of the “sauce” together. I put quotes around this because I am thinking of it as a pasta sauce, but of course it isn’t really.
  2. Anyway, we are cooking down onion until soft and golden, adding a bit of salt to help prevent burning. Btw, most of my favorite savory dishes start with slow-cooked onions.
  3. Then we add lots of garlic (tamed by the cooking!), chopped fresh tomatoes, green chili, Kashmiri chili (or cayenne), fresh ginger and turmeric. We let this cook until the oil separates out and the tomatoes are very soft and pulpy.
  4. Next we add the smoky eggplant and let that cook some more until the oil separates out yet again.
  5. Last addition is of lime juice, garam masala and cilantro, cooking just a minute or two before stirring into the cooked pasta – whatever kind that you like – and topping with a quick preserved lemon and spice drizzle that you will “temper” in a bit of hot oil. This last bit isn’t absolutely necessary, but I think it adds a little something special.
  6. Finally we tear up the burrata and divide between the servings. I’ve been a bit mean and stipulated one fat ball of burrata between four plates, but perhaps use two. Or even none if you wish to keep it vegan.

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"Her attention to detail is amazing. Her eye for presentation is exceptional. She is experienced in parties of all sizes and her food is ALWAYS great! In my experience, it is easy for many caterers to do a good job in the controlled situation of a hotel or restaurant, but it is rare to find a caterer who can do a great job when there is no kitchen on site. That is a treasure."

"What a wonderful, delicious and breathtaking table you created!! It was, as always, a real pleasure to work with you. A special thanks to Eddie for all his work."

"We just wanted to thank you for being so amazing at what you do and sharing your gifts with us for our special day. We have loved working with you and creating this fabulous menu. You were so attentive to our hopes for the cuisine and made it possible for this aspect of the wedding to be just the way we wanted it to be."