In this classic Afghan vegetarian dish, eggplants are shallow-fried to a creamy tenderness and stewed in a coriander broth with tomatoes and chile peppers, then topped with a cool yogurt sauce and sprinkled with dried mint. Nawida likes to leave the stems on the eggplants and peel away the outer layer.
2 heaping teaspoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
1 3/4 pounds Japanese or Italian eggplants (3 to 5 eggplants)
1 3/4 cups corn oil
2 large plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/3-inch rounds
2 large jalapeño chiles, halved, quartered, seeded or partially seeded if desired
Dried mint, for garnish
For the tomato sauce: Mix the tomato paste, garlic, coriander, salt, black pepper, and water in a small bowl.
For the yogurt sauce: Mix the yogurt, garlic, salt, and water (adding more if necessary) to make a pourable but not runny consistency.
For the fried eggplant: Peel the eggplants, including the hard green part around the stem. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick planks. Pour a little of the oil into a high-sided medium skillet. Pour the rest of the oil into another medium skillet and turn to medium-high heat. (If you are using a larger skillet, add enough oil to come about 2/3 inch up the sides.) When the oil is hot, after about 5 minutes (the eggplant will sizzle when dipped), add 4 or 5 planks (the oil should nearly cover them). Fry in about 4 batches, flipping them and adjusting the heat as needed to keep the oil bubbling, until soft and brown on both sides, for 4 to 6 minutes.
Lay 4 tomato slices in the high-sided skillet and then, as the eggplant is fried, put a layer on top of the tomatoes. Put another layer of the tomato slices and half of the pepper slices over top. Add a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce, and continue layering the eggplant as it cooks with the rest of the tomatoes and peppers. Ladle out 3 tablespoons of the frying oil over the vegetables, and then pour the rest of the tomato sauce over top.
Put the skillet over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 15 more minutes.
Spread some of the yogurt sauce on a serving platter. Spoon the eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers over top. Spoon more yogurt sauce on top. Sprinkle with dried mint and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes