Forgive me, for this familiar-looking meal: another heap of reddish stew, atop rice. Too many of my meals look like this! I’ve made the “Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala,” from fatfreevegan.com, and need not apologize, after all. It is -- yet another -- quite pleasant, fragrant, flavorful stew.

Let yourself be “wowed” by the long list of spices in this recipe. As the chef, you’ll get to be the “mad scientist” who pulls it all together. The coriander seeds will pop as they toast in the skillet.

I browned my chopped onions in 7 minutes, then combined them with all the spices in my food processor. I used fresh ginger, smoked paprika instead of cayenne, and white sugar instead of agave nectar. My pureed paste was colored red, thanks to the turmeric, smoked paprika, and tomatoes. I added 1 tsp. kosher salt to this paste.

I browned my chunks of eggplant in 5 minutes 30 seconds. I then cooked the whole combined stew for another 25 minutes. I did have to use a total of 1 1/4 cups water. At the end, I added another 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt to the final stew. I was pleased to garnish with cilantro, as it paired well with this masala.

PRICES
Onions (2) = $1.00
Tomatoes (2) = $1.30
Eggplant (1.03 lbs.) = $2.33

RECIPE: enjoy eggplant, chickpeas, and a warm list of spices
PREP TIME:
set aside an hour for prep and cooking
TASTE: an accurate combo of spiced peanutty stew

Next time, I’ll continue to coast on this vegetarian path. I’ll make “Farro and Beluga Lentil Pilaf with Ginger and Cilantro,” from the December 2010 issue of Fine Cooking. See it when you return to my site on Thursday, May 19.