The sky was overcast like never before in Colorado. And then it started to rain, heavily at first and continuous, light, rhythmic drizzle later on. It appeared to be the perfect time to drink hot chocolate and a curl up with a book. I downloaded “ And the Mountains Echoed”; and started the journey with Pari. I kept reading through the day, glancing outside the window once a while to see if the rain had stopped.
For almost a week, the rains kept lashing on now, softly falling then and making us all aware how powerful and sometimes unforgiving Mother Nature is. The waterways filled and then overflowed, the creeks spilled over and the rivers raged. The news grew increasingly alarming. Towns had been cut off from the rest of the state and the rain continued to fall. Flash Flood warning messages started to flash on my mobile screen and then one of the windows in the basement filled up with water. We got to work with a wet Vac and pumped the water out. And then did it again a couple of hours later and again a day later.
We spent days praying for friends who had been asked to take shelter and stay where they were as the roads were impassable. We kept hoping to get a word from them somehow. And we waited for their news as we watched news about the devastation that had struck.
A few days later, the rain stopped. Rescue operations began with full force and tales of heroism started to float in. More than 700 people were airlifted to safer places along with their pets. Tales of human resilience, of faith and bravery and of communities coming together to salvage and rebuild gladdened our hearts. And our friends called to let us know they were safe. Two days ago, the news we had been hoping and praying for, came in. All the people who were missing, were accounted for and had reached safety.
Colorado towns that faced the worst of the disaster, will never look the same again and the people won’t be the same as before. Life goes on while you are left to pick up pieces.
I finally finished reading the book. I loved it and I hated it at the same time, within the same thought. While I pondered over the book once more in my thoughts, I decided to spread some cheer by cooking a meal for my friends who had just been through a very tough time in their life. And the food from Afghanistan was resonating within me – because of the book, because of the life portrayed in the book and what was going on around me while I was reading it and because it simply is a soul satisfying cuisine.
I made the Borani Banjan as one of the dishes to bring to my friends. On the surface it is simply eggplants layered with tomatoes and yogurt. But the layers work magic. Try it for yourself.
Borani Banjan – Layered Afghan Eggplant Dish
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 tsp oil for cooking more for brushing the eggplants if you are baking them
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- Oil for frying you can also bake the eggplants
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- ½ tsp dried mint
- Fresh mint for garnish
For the Yogurt sauce
- 1 C yogurt
- 1 tsp finely grated garlic
- 2 tbs dried mint
Make the Yogurt sauce
- Mix all ingredients and refrigerate
Make the Borani Banjan
- Cut the eggplants into ½ inch slices.
- Sprinkle slices liberally with salt and leave them to ooze the water and then pat them dry. I usually skip this step if my eggplants are fresh from the farm.
- To bake - Brush slices with some olive oil and arrange on cookie sheets. Broil until lightly browned. About 3 minutes each side.
- Alternately – heat oil in a skillet and pan fry the eggplants o a few at a time.
- In either of the methods do not cook the eggplants completely. They should be slightly firm in the middle.
- Once the eggplants are done, remove them from the pan and begin to cook the tomatoes in the same pan.
- Put the 2 tsp oil in the pan and add in garlic, saute and then add tomatoes.
- Cook until they become mushy then add in the turmeric, coriander and cayenne. Stir to combine and cook until the spices are well mixed in. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
- Now arrange half of the eggplants (in the same pan ) to cover the surface of the pan.
- Arrange the cooked tomatoes on top. Repeat with another layer of eggplant and the remaining tomatoes.
- Add 1/4 cup water and cover with a tight lid.
- Cook on low medium heat for about 20 minutes and check for doneness. You are looking for a soft texture but not a mush.
How to Serve: Spread some of the yogurt sauce onto the bottom of a serving dish.
- Top with the eggplant stacks, lifting each stack carefully. Top with the remainder of the yogurt.
- Sprinkle the dried mint on top. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve immediately, with naan.
I kept the borani is single layers, instead of the two and made them into individual servings.