Eggplant and Zucchini Sabzi

Sunday was the Kickoff to the Eat Local Challenge month, run by Hogtown Homegrown and hosted by the Citizen’s Co-op. I was happily surprised with the number of people, the store and the small courtyard were packed with people the whole time I was there. There were definitely more vendors than I’ve ever seen there selling everything from goat milk to soap to herb plants. I hope everyone made lots of money. I was a bad blogger and forgot to take any photos at all, unfortunately, but I still want to post the recipe for the dish I made for my “Eat Local” cooking demo.

One of my favorite locavore challenges is finding great locally grown substitutes for exotic ingredients. Cashews and almonds are called for in many Indian dishes as a way to make a sauce rich and creamy without using dairy. Well, almonds and cashews don’t grow here in North Central Florida (much to my dismay) but pecans definitely do. So I was pleasantly surprised when a regular Indian stir-fried mixed vegetable recipe worked wonderfully using pecans instead of cashews.

This is a perfect spring/summer vegetable dish. It’s vegan and uses the vegetables we have in the greatest abundance in the summer: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. But sabzi is really a cooking method- the dish is how it’s cooked and the sauce, not necessarily what’s cooked in it. If you are swimming in okra, add okra. If you’re covered in green beans, try green beans alone or just add green beans to the mix. Great for cleaning out the crisper drawer!

Eggplant and Zucchini Sabzi

All bolded ingredients came from the 441 Farmer’s Market the day before.

1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ fresh ginger, minced or grated
2-3 tbl peanut or sunflower oil
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 handful of pecans
2 peppers, any kind
2 medium zucchini, in chunks
2 medium Japanese eggplant, or 1 Italian eggplant, in chunks
salt & pepper
1 large handful of cilantro
1 lemon

Heat 2 tbl oil in a large saute pan or frying pan to medium. Add onion and fry, stirring constantly, until the onion is translucent and starting to color. Add ginger and garlic, and keep stirring until the onion starts to turn deep brown. Add the coriander and garam masala and stir until the spices are very fragrant. Then add the peppers, zucchini and eggplant, a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, and let them all fry together. Add another teaspoon or so of oil if the mixture seems too dry.

Combine the tomatoes and pecans in a blender. Puree them together until the mixture is completely smooth.

When the eggplant, peppers and zucchini have just started to soften and color, and the rest of the mixture is nice and dark brown and caramelized, add the pureed tomatoes. If the mixture seems dry, add 1/4 c of water. Stir thoroughly, taste for salt, and then let simmer until the sauce darkens and you can smell the spices, about 10 minutes.

Add salt if necessary, and garnish with cilantro and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, or you can pass around wedges of lemon for each person to add to taste. Serve with achar, raita, steamed rice, or naan.

If you have the time, put the pecans in a small bowl of water the morning you plan to make this dish. The pecans absorb some of the water and the water also leaches out a little of the bitterness of the pecan skins, making a creamier and smoother dish.

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