This is my Indian take on a French summertime classic. I developed the recipe for the wedding of two dear friends who asked me to cater their nuptial dinner last month. I drew spice inspiration from one of my culinary heroes, Yotam Ottolenghi, but stuck to a more traditional preparation than his oven-baked version that is similar in concept.
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2" rounds
3 T. ghee or grapeseed oil (or other neutral cooking oil of your choice), divided
1 large green zucchini, quartered length-wise and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 large yellow zucchini, quartered length-wise and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 t. each: fenugreek seed, kalonji*, cumin seed, fennel seed and brown mustard seed
1 t. ground cardamom
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 lb. okra, quartered lengthwise
3 ripe tomatoes, diced
Lightly rub salt into the side of each eggplant slice. Place in a large bowl or colander and let sit 10-12 minutes. Use a clean towel to rub any excess juice off the eggplant, then cut each round into 1/2" cubes.
In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat 2 T. ghee or oil over a medium-high flame. Add eggplant and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is soft and beginning to shrink slightly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggplant to a large bowl.
Add green and yellow zucchini to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the eggplant.
Add remaining 1 T. of ghee or oil to the pot. Stir in all spices and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add onion and red bell pepper and sauté for 7-8 minutes, until vegetables are visibly beginning to soften. Add in okra, tomatoes and the cooked eggplant and zucchini, and stir well. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring often. Be mindful not to overcook vegetables, and reduce heat along the way if needed. Add salt to taste and serve immediately.
* Also known as nigella, these flavorful seeds can be found at Indian markets or specialty spice shops.