Bibi Ji chef Gary Singh on cooking with eggplant

The Santa Barbara Indian restaurant Bibi Ji is lucky enough to sit just blocks away from two weekly farmers markets. That means dishes are brimming with fresh produce.

To celebrate eggplant season, KCRW met up with chef Gary Singh as he collects ingredients for Baingan Bharta, a traditional North Indian eggplant dish inspired by his childhood.

Bibiji chef Gary Singh (left) and co-owner Alejandro Medina (right) picking out eggplants. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

“At my home, my grandmother and mother would roast this eggplant on the wooden fire, peel it, cook with Indian spices and make a very tasty, nice dish,” said Singh, who’s looking for large eggplants that can hold up to direct heat.

Bearing a resemblance to baba ghanoush and Mirza Ghassemi, Baingan Bharta originated in the Punjab region and is now part of the national cuisines of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Baingan Bharta garnished with daikon sprouts from Ojai Microgreens. (Bibiji)

Here’s how chef Gary Singh makes the dish:

At Bibi Ji, we source our local, organic eggplant from John Givens ranch every Tuesday and Saturday at our Farmer’s Market. We then char the eggplant on an open flame, before steaming and peeling them. Once the eggplant has been removed of its skin, we chop the pulp of the eggplant into small chunks. The eggplant is then cooked down with fresh tomato, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, and Thai chili. The smokiness from the char is apparent in every bite of our Baingan Bharta and recommend enjoying with our aged Basmati rice, garlic naan, and mint raita.

Want more farmers market inspiration? Click here.