The last of the tomatoes are upon us. If you're looking to use some up, try this Bengali-style tomato stew, adapted from "Madhur Jaffrey's Spice Kitchen'' (Crown/Carol Southern, 1993; out of print). It's great as a vegetable side dish. Ms. Jaffrey suggests pairing it with pork braised with mustardy rai masala or fish baked in a green chutney of cilantro, ginger and chiles.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, a few at a time, for 15 seconds or so; peel and halve them, squeeze out some of the seeds and cut into 3/4-inch dice.
Heat 3 tablespoons of mustard oil at medium-high heat in a pot. When it's hot, add 6 fenugreek seeds; a bay leaf; 1/4 teaspoon each cumin, fennel and brown mustard seeds; and 1/8 teaspoon kalonji.
When the mustard seeds start to pop -- this won't take long -- add the tomatoes, cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. When you no longer hear the tomatoes making noise inside the pot, add a teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar (or not) and some cayenne -- the recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon; depending on who'll be eating it with me, I may bump this up to 1 or 2 teaspoons. (If you increase the cayenne, use a bit more of the other spices too.)
Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer awhile. Ms. Jaffrey says it's done in 7 to 10 minutes; this results in a dish with plenty of liquid, usually served in individual bowls. I like to cook it covered, as directed, then uncover it and cook it a few minutes more for a thicker dish.