Indian-Spiced Grilled Eggplant Steaks with Saag Aloo (Potatoes)
Updated: Sep 17, 2021
I fell in love with Indian food, of all places, in Washington, D.C. Right outside the National Zoo and across the thoroughfare, sits a charming line of restaurants of various ethnic cuisines. One such restaurant, at the time, featured Indian dishes. I was hesitant. Back then, I didn't really enjoy spicy (hot) food, and had the impression that most Indian food was spicy. I now know, their spicy is not necessarily "hot" but rather full of various spices for layers of bold flavor. After perusing the menu, and smelling the wonderful aromas of tandoor, I relented. If I'm going to try something new, this seemed like a good time and place to do so.
Because of that wonderful experience, and my overall willingness to try new things, I now love Indian spiced food! Vegan dishes are easily transformed into flavorful, hearty meals with Indian fusion and classic aromatics; like with this dish. Here I combine coconut and ginger with warming spices to create a creamy potato paired with succulent grilled eggplant. Smokey notes paired with fluffed potatoes - excellence for dinner!
Sustainability Spotlight: Trying new things is a firm tenement of sustainability; and in all things, really. As I have mentioned (quite a few times at this point, I think), being flexible really matters to how easy transitioning to a vegan diet or supporting sustainability can become for you. When I sautéed and cooked my way through this recipe, I thought about all the things that I "used to know" and things that I have, through research and emerging science, now come to believe. It, at times, feels like I have evolved into a completely different person on my thoughts and feelings surrounding some subjects. Not least of all, how I feel about being vegan and living sustainably. In these aspects, I have evolved dramatically. I continue to focus on that evolution and how it is a process every day, every week, every month, and every year. We are always moving; always changing, but our attitude about that change is where we either succeed or stagnate.
If we choose to change, we must truly be open to new experiences. In my story about my first decision to give Indian cuisine a try, I thought about how I felt about this type of cuisine before and after I tried it. Completely different. If we as individuals never even attempt to change, try something new, or embark on a new path to sustainability, our goals will never be achieved. If we, however, focus on how change can impact our world in such small and aggregated ways, it might be worth sallying forth into the unknown. The "ask" here is simple. Take a chance on change; you just might find you like yourself, and the world, a little bit better on the other side.
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
Indian-Spiced Grilled Eggplant:
1 eggplant - cut into "steaks" (lengthwise, cut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick cross-sections); Sweat eggplant for 30 minutes for best results (generously salt eggplant and let sit for ~30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry)
2 tsp of spice mix above
4 large yellow potatoes (unpeeled & chopped into bite sized pieces)
3 tbsp virgin coconut oil (unrefined)
1 Spanish onion (chopped)
5-6 garlic cloves (diced)
Remaining Spice Mix (above)
1/2 cup coconut water
1/3 cup cashews
1 lemon (juiced)
1 large piece of fresh ginger (peeled) & chopped (~1 inch x 1 inch)
1/4 cup filtered water
3 large handfuls of baby spinach (chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste
Garnish: 1 handful cilantro (chopped) & hemp seeds
Mix your Spice Mix in a small bowl.
Spray your sweated, rinsed and dried eggplant steaks with cooking spray and season one side with the Spice Mix (only ~2 tsp should be used on your eggplants). Set aside for now.
Place a large saucepan over Medium-High heat filled with ~4 inches of filtered water. Set a steam basket inside your pot and add the potatoes. Cover the pot & basket with a tight fitting lid and steam for ~15-18 minutes (or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork, but they are not yet falling apart). Remove steamer basket (carefully! It's hot) from your pot and set aside.
While your potatoes are steaming, pre-heat your grill to ~500 degrees F. Once up to temperature, add your eggplant steaks and cook ~5-7 each side until softened with grill marks. Place on a plate and set aside to cool.
Once your potatoes are done steaming, melt 2 tbsp of unrefined coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet over Medium-High heat Once it shimmers, add onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté onions for ~5-7 minutes until golden.
Next, add the garlic and stir to warm. Add all potatoes with another ~1 tbsp of oil and another pinch of salt, and cook, stirring infrequently until they start to become golden (~10 minutes).
While potatoes are cooking, add coconut water through ginger to a high-speed blender and blend for ~1 minute (Vitamix) or ~4-5 minutes for other brands (stopping to scrape down sides and use tamper as needed). Ingredients should make a smooth (and thick) "cream."
Once your potatoes have browned, add remaining Spice Mix and stir to coat all potatoes. Add spinach and stir to wilt. Now, add 1/4 cup of the filtered water to help deglaze your pan and scrape up all the browned bits.
Stir in cream and heat through (~2 minutes); taste & adjust seasoning with another pinch of salt & some black pepper.
Serve potatoes with the eggplant steaks and garnished with chopped cilantro & hemp seeds (if using)
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie