I pulled my scrapbook of recipies off the shelf the other day, the one that I filled over the years with recipes from friends, newspapers, magazines. I don't clip recipes any more, now that I can find almost anything on line in seconds. But I have quite a collection from back in the day.
Flipping through those pages took me on a journey. I saw recipes that we used to make regularly that we haven't made in ages -- our favorite cheesecake recipe! -- and many that we have never made. Even seeing those unmade recipes there, with their tantalizing possibilities, was a treat.
My favorite part of flipping through those pages, though, was finding recipes from friends.
Seeing those recipes, written in our friends' own hands pulled me back. Back to Anita's dinner party where I tasted that apple crisp and knew I had to have the recipe. Back to the cheesy potato casserole that Michelle's sister brought to a pot luck. Back to the Spring Mill Cafe outside of Philadelphia, the French restaurant where I worked during college, and the recipe for creamy salad dressing that makes enough to feed an army.
Back to our wedding shower, to the anticipation of collecting the recipe cards friends had brought to share.
Back to that time before we had children when friends were our family, that circle that held us, supported us, entertained us, consoled us.
Flipping the pages in that recipe book pulled me gently back there, with visions of more recent events flashing thorough my mind as I traveled there. Children's milestones, vacations, dinners, gatherings, funerals, weddings, all passed me by as if glimpsed out the window of a moving train.
Those images flashed by and overwhelmed me as I thought of all that we have shared and built and lost.
I pulled out a recipe that I had not made in years, our friend Neha's mother's Bhagan Bharta recipe. I made it and it was excellent. I served it for dnner, wondering whether the children would eat it.
Bhagan Bharta is an excellent way to use some of those beautiful eggplants and end-of-season tomatoes that are at the farmers' markets now.
Although I have used Mrs. Misra's recipe, I have adapted it liberally and any inauthenticity is my own. The original recipe calls for cooking the eggplants in the microwave. I used the grill because I like that grilled flavor, but if you want a quicker recipe, use the microwave technique (described below). This version is gingery and fresh with just a hint of smokiness from the grilled eggplant and minimal heat.
15 minutes preparation time
1 hour cooking time
2 large eggplants (or 3 medium-sized ones)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 medium onions, chopped
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Rice, naan, or pita, for serving
Preheat the grill to high.
Cut a cross into the end of each eggplant and half of the garlic into each. Grill the eggplants until they are well-charred on the outside, turning them once or twice. Depending on how black you want them, this could take from half an hour to an hour. Remove from the grill and let cool.
Alternatively, if you want a quicker way to cook the eggplants, stuff them with the garlic and microwave them on high for about 15 minutes, until they are very soft.
When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, slit them length-wise and open them up. Scoop out the flesh and chop it coarsely. If you come across any of the garlic cloves that you stuffed into the eggplants, chop them, too. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, and chile and cook until the onions have softened, about 8 minutes. Add the eggplant and about a cup of water, along with the ground coriander and salt. Cook until the water has reduced and the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato and cilantro and cook until everything has heated through, about 2 minutes.
Serve hot with rice, naan, or pita.
*There are many variations of the spelling of the name of this recipe, including Baingan or Baigan and Bhurtha and Bhurta.