Eggplant has a very prominent place in Indian vegetarian cooking for its resemblance to meat and because it absorbs spices so well. Although it is not a particularly nutritious vegetable, it can serve as the basis for a very substantial dish. This stuffed eggplant makes a delicious and attractive main course, and it is low in calories. Choose firm, glossy eggplants, and check to see that they are free of bruises.

SERVES 4

2 small eggplants (about ВЅ pound each)

3 tablespoons oil

2 medium onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch cumin seeds

Вј teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups (6 ounces) quartered mushrooms

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or Вѕ cup diced canned tomatoes, drained

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

ВЅ teaspoon salt

1 cup plain yogurt

  1. Wash the eggplants, cut off their stems, and slice them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon, leaving a wall of eggplant about Вј inch thick all around. Roughly chop the pulp and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400В°F. Bake the eggplant shells face down on a greased baking sheet for 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost tender. Remove and reduce the heat to 350В°F.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and saut for 2 minutes. Then add the remainder of the spices and saut 2 minutes more, stirring often.
  4. Add the mushrooms and saut for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Add the eggplant pulp and fresh peas if you are using them and cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggplant is almost, but not quite, tender. If you are using frozen peas add them now and cook until the peas are heated through, about 2 more minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat under the skillet, add the salt and yogurt, and stir to mix. Fill the eggplant shells with this mixture, then place them in a lightly greased shallow baking dish (a 12 x 2 x 7-inch dish works well). May be prepared to this point up to 8 hours in advance, covered, and chilled. Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown on top and piping hot.