Cooking in India.

Every few blocks there is a fruit and vegetable man. Sometimes he pushes a cart, brightly colored with bicycle type tires. Or he might have a stall, also brightly colored, but with a roof providing shade. The fruits and vegetables this time of year are plentiful. Papayas, pineapples, watermelons and lemony bananas are my daily favorites in the fruit category. The locals are eating tons of grapes, which are just in. Green oranges can still be had but are not as sweet as they are December and January. 

Each day I walk to the stand. It is not more than 5 minutes away at the top of the hill on the main road, three stalls to the right. Go past the stationer and the sweets man, and then you will see the veggie man. There is often a small woman squatting out in front, she wears a cotton sari and works with a hand broom. She picks through the baskets removing anything unsightly and also sweeps the floor. The standing area is just about 4’ x 4’ but the road is dusty, so there is plenty for her to do. The back of the stall is reserved for fruits, pumpkins, and ginger. The ceiling is covered with several varieties of hanging bananas. The front of the store is filled with baskets of vegetables: tomatoes, squash, peppers, long green beans, onions, cauliflower, and potatoes.

At home Chris does not really like eggplant and I think I was born with eggplant on my mind so I buy it almost every day. I have tried all the varieties but my favorite is the small longish ones in green or purple. I choose whichever looks best. They can be as small as my thumb or as long as my forearm but they are firm and delightful in flavor. I buy five at a time, enough for a meal and a bowl of leftovers.

Every night my recipe is the same. I start with some olive oil in a pan and as the oil gets hot I add a few pieces of peeled ginger. I brown the eggplant first, then add quartered tomatoes and sliced carrots. The carrots are more red than orange and the tomatoes are sweet and juicy. I smash the tomatoes a bit and add a tablespoon of sambar powder. The spices here a story unto themselves but sambar is coriander, chilies, fenugreek, turmeric, asafetida and channa dhal. It adds a spice and flavor that unifies the veggies, making curry. With the powder I add half a cup of water and simmer till the sauce thickens. I peel and slice a cucumber for coolness and serve my mix with lots of pickle. Oh the pickle, today I bought my fourth jar. Maybe I will tell you about that tomorrow.

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