Recipe for Nawida's Burani Bonjon (Afghan Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce)
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.
(Editor’s Notes: A mondoline on its thickest setting makes slicing the eggplants lengthwise easy; please use the guard! Step back as you add the eggplant to the oil as it may sputter. And consider draining the cooked eggplant on a rack or a few sheets of paper towels as the slices come out of the oil. ~csr)
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.
Recipe courtesy of Nawaida Saidhosin and the League of Kitchens | Photograph © Cheryl Sternman Rule