Tuesday, August 31, 2010

East African Eggplant Curry

Funny how writing about your life forces you to put things in perspective. For example, I was reading over my last several posts today, and a few things became clear:

  1. I look like a wino. What can I say? I love a good wine tasting!
  2. When I edit out the mundane details and focus on the exciting stuff, my life looks 100% more interesting than it feels most of the time. Maybe I need to give myself more credit for being an exciting and interesting person?
  3. When it comes to food, lately I've been going pretty heavy on the craving, and light on the creating.
This weekend, I decided to remedy that last point. I've had this recipe for East African Eggplant Curry hanging on my refrigerator door since I went through my first love affair with eggplant last winter. Finally, all of the stars and the planets aligned just right, and I continued my trip around the world (in Cincinnati) with this eggplant curry.

East African Eggplant Curry
adapted from Ashbury's Aubergines
(makes 4 servings) 

1 medium eggplant (1 lb, 2 oz), unpeeled, cut into 1/4" dice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 small or 1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 t dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/2 t salt
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 T tomato paste
1/2 c water
1 can chickpeas, drained
cayenne pepper to taste

First, prep all of your ingredients. Dice your eggplant and chop your tomatoes and onions.

If you're lazy like me, you don't need to bother with peeling the tomatoes. Just give them a good squeeze to remove the seeds and chop them up.

Now, pat yourself on the back, because fiber is good for you.

Measure out the spices, and mince the ginger, garlic, and pepper.

Mise en place, which is a fancy way of saying "getting everything ready to go before you start cooking," takes a little time, but I promise it's worth the effort - your dish will come together much easier and you'll feel like a superstar chef!

Right. Now, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the onion and cook over low heat until it begins to soften, about 7 minutes.

Next, add the garlic, ginger, peppers, and spices and cook for another minute, stirring constantly so the spices don't burn.

Now, add the eggplant and salt, and stir until the eggplant is completely coated with the spices. Thanks to the turmeric, it should turn a lovely shade of highlighter-yellow.

Add the tomatoes, crank up the heat, and bring to a boil. While you wait, mix the tomato paste and water, and stir that in, too.

Once you have a good boil going, put the lid on and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.

Time's up! Add your chickpeas and give it another stir. Continue to cook until the eggplant is very tender and the mixture is thick.

Now, grab a spoon and try a taste. Adjust the seasoning if you like. If you're a hothead like me, add a few shakes of cayenne pepper. Careful, though! You want to be able to taste the fruits of your labor, not an over-seasoned, unbalanced dish! Taste as you go, and you'll be just fine.

Serve your curry with your favorite (whole) grain. I served mine with brown rice, but quinoa or millet would be equally great.

Check out this big, happy, family-style pot of love!


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