15 September 2007

smoked eggplant dip, and a green chile buffalo burger – aka not quite Paper Chef 25

Posted in events, food at 10:44 pm by Tricia

The Paper Chef competition is a monthly food blogging event that brings out the creative juices in chefs around the globe. Cooks are challenged to use 4 specific ingredients (3 drawn at random from a list, the other chosen to reflect a theme). The event returned this month after a long hiatus. I wanted to participate, but couldn’t get into the ingredients: chiles, eggplant, smoked swordfish, and “something you have at home.” Heck, I could cover the “something you have at home” with the eggplant or chile, I’d gotten both at the farmer’s market the previous day. This time of year, I always have a hankering for chile rellenos (stuffed green chiles), and we’d recently traveled to the Albuquerque area which left me with a craving for green chile sauces, so I knew that ingredient would be easy.

The first head scratcher for me was the smoked fish. I’ve eaten it before, but I don’t seek it out and have never cooked with it. Leeway was granted for vegetarians to use “other smoked ingredients” – would it be lame to claim to be a vegetarian for the day, and use the smoked paprika that I have in my spice drawer?

To top it off, I’m not that keen on eggplant – I’ve liked it when others have prepared it, but I haven’t had much luck on my own attempts. I turned to my cookbooks for eggplanty inspiration. Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian has a recipe for “stuffed baby eggplants” (imam bayeldi, from Turkey). So one of my ideas was to make a smoked fish style stuffing for eggplant. Kind of an eggplant relleno. Daunting, though, to invent a smoked fish filling. The same cookbook has “smoked eggplant” (bharta, from India) – that would be killing two ingredient-birds with one stone! (ooh, bad pun)

So I thought and pondered and came close, but didn’t make a meal before the deadline. But after all that pondering, I couldn’t hold off the green chile cravings any longer. I bought a lot at the market this past Wednesday, and decided to turn them into sauce. Today I roasted them, and since the grill was on, decided to roast two eggplants as well. I also had some buffalo burgers from the Farmer’s Market, so I decided to make green chile burgers with a side of bharta.

Green Chile Sauce
More of the Best from New Mexico Kitchens, p 9

1/3 cup canola oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~1 cup minced onion
2 Tab flour
2 cups water
2 cups chopped green chile
salt to taste (I used ~ 1 tsp)

Saute garlic and onion in oil in heavy saucepan. Blend in flour with wooden spoon. Add water and green chile and mix well. Add salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

According to the recipe, the onion is optional, but i used it. I’m not sure I’ll use this recipe again, but if I do, I will use less flour. I’d like it less thick – more like salsa than thickened sauce. The chiles had a nice heat level – enough zing to wake up my mouth, but not enough to hurt. Kinda makes me wish I’d made rellenos!

Smoked Eggplant (Bharta, from India)
Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, pp 183-184

4-5 Tab peanut or canola oil (I used 1 Tab peanut, 1ish Tab canola)
1 cup finely chopped onion (I used 1 small/medium onion)
1 (2×1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and “grated to a pulp” (i chopped very fine instead)
1 cup peeled and chopped very ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt
1 large eggplant (1.5 lbs), roasted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 Tab coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oil in a frying pan, preferably nonstick, and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions. Stir and fry until the onions are brown around the edges. Put in the ginger and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes. Stir and fry until slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cumin, cayenne, and salt. Stir to mix. Now stir in the eggplant. Turn the heat to medium and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes (I covered the pan and put on simmer). Add the cilantro and mix well (no cilantro on hand, I skipped this step). Serve hot if serving as part of the main course, at room temperature as a dip, and chilled as a spread.

According to Jaffrey, this is a common village dish in Punjab. “A village meal might well consist of this bharta, some mustard greens, flat whole wheat breads, (rotis), and a tall glass of buttermilk or lassi. … Bharta also makes a very good spread.”

I cooked this in the (unwashed) pan that had been used to make the green chile sauce, and I think it picked up a little bit of the flavor and a touch of heat. I thought it was amazingly good, very rich tasting. I’m not sure if that’s from the oil, or the eggplant (I’m not enough of an eggplant connoisseur to know how it affects a dish.) I ate some on bread (sesame semolina from a local baker). I also had green chile on my buffalo burger (local producer) and some (local) cucumbers and (local) cantaloupe-ish melon. The buffalo was fine – I couldn’t really taste a substantial difference between it and beef, even before I buried it under green chile. (I’d asked the vendor if my picky-burger-eater would notice the difference. He said “probably not if he’s using ketchup.” However, I didn’t have hamburger buns or sourdough bread on hand, so picky-burger-eater had a [natural Trader Joe’s] dog instead. The other two don’t even do burgers.) Jonski Papa wasn’t at dinner (out watching the Michigan – Notre Dame game) so I haven’t yet gathered a second opinion on the bharta, but I might have a go-to eggplant recipe for now!

Market Fresh icon Local ingredients in this meal: chiles, onions, garlic, water :^), eggplants, tomatoes, buffalo burger, cucumbers, Howell melon, sesame semolina bread.



  1. Michele T said,

    Hmm, that eggplant dish sounds good! I just got a couple smallish fat eggplants at our city farmer’s market yesterday (and a couple of giant tomatoes since our tomato plants are mostly producing cherries at this point). Maybe I’ll try it! We also harvested all the chilies we grew this summer so it’s time to make some green chile sauce too. I have to find my recipe, I think it was from a NM cookbook I got years ago. I haven’t made it in a few years as we’ve been roasting and freezing the chilies instead.

  2. Tricia said,

    Let me know what you think if you try the eggplant dish, Michele. Matthew had some on Monday and he liked it (I made him try it before I revealed that it had eggplant – he’s suffered through some of my eggplant failures, too!), but he thinks it needs to be served with a contrasting texture (like pita chips).

  3. MizD said,

    You know, I love the sneaky idea of using smoked paprika for your smoked ingredient, but then I’m all about mucking with the rules.

    We did a dish not too long ago wherein we made some with buffalo and some with beef and it was definitely hard to distinguish once condiments were involved. Considering the price (around here, at least) perhaps buffalo should be reserved for special, sauce-free occasions?

  4. jonskifarms said,

    Hey MizD, nice to hear from you. I’m sure the germ for my smoked paprika rule-bending was inspired by all the Paper Chef entries I’ve read at belly timber!

    The buffalo I bought wasn’t that much more expensive than ground beef from the same producers, but in general, it definitely does aim at a different audience and cost more. Have you ever had buffalo steak? I’ve only had the ground meat (and the other time was at a street fair in Denver, where the ‘burger’ was all loose, kind of like a sloppy joe but without sauce).

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