Even though I'm not whelmed with Greens, the famous vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco, I've been very much enjoying a fat cookbook, The Savory Way, by the restaurant's founding chef, Deborah Madison.

I've done two variations on the following recipe lately, and I think it's pretty good. Mary thinks it's so good that she's threatened bodily harm if I don't put it in our regular dinner "rotation."

    1 large firm eggplant (I substituted four to six small Italian eggplants)
    4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    1 chunk fresh ginger, about a 1/2-inch cube, minced
    4 small red or white boiling potatoes, skin on
    olive oil
    2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    1 bay leaf
    1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla), cut into 1/2-inch squares
    4 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
    salt and pepper

Roast the cumin seeds in a hot, dry skillet until they're browning and aromatic, then dump them into a mortar and grind them into a powder.

Heat a minimal amount of olive oil in a large saucepan, and sautee the onion, garlic and ginger until translucent. Stir in the cumin and bay leaf. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste, and stir.

Option A: Slice the eggplants in half and grill over hot charcoal until seared on the outside and cooked through. Halve the potatoes and boil them for about 10 minutes or until nearly cooked but still a bit firm; then put them on the grill for five more minutes until they're roasted on the outside. Cut eggplant and potatoes into bite-size pieces, stir them into the stew, and continue to heat, covered, for five more minutes.

Option B: Slice the eggplants and add them to the stew for the last 15 minutes. Quarter the potatoes and boil them for about 10 minutes until nearly cooked but still a bit firm; drain and turn them into the stew and cook, covered, for the last 10 minutes.

Both options are delicious, but Option A, adding a haunting smoky flavor from the grill, is certainly worth the extra work.