Together in the Kitchen with a Whole Bunch of Eggplants: Eggplant Curry

This time on “why did I buy a whole box of this vegetable?”: what to do with six eggplants?

Cheruko is harvesting her eggplants–many, many eggplants. She brought eleven of them to dinner a couple weeks ago to distribute, and I took six. My go-to recipes when I am cooking for myself are Italian- and French-style dishes that  pair the eggplants with tomatoes, basil, and parsley: ratatouille, gratin, vegetable lasagna. When I am alone in kitchen with an eggplant, these are the dishes I make. However, the texture of these dishes is, unfortunately, precisely what our spouses dislike about eggplants. (Though mine does like Summer Pasta with Eggplant Sauce because the eggplant is cooked down a lot.)

Instead of swapping dinner partners for the duration of the harvest, we brainstormed ways to eat eggplants that would change the texture and feature different flavor profiles than the standard eggplant-tomato-basil that I like so much. (It’s a standard for a reason!) In Japanese cooking, miso and eggplant and pickled eggplant are staples of the summer, but that didn’t fix the texture issue. However, one thing that the Indian restaurants of Kanazawa do exceedingly well is to make curries out of any local vegetable: kabocha, lotus root, eggplant–and if they could do it, why couldn’t I?


Let’s talk roasted eggplant. Roasting eggplant eliminates a lot of the potential pitfalls one may encounter when pan-cooking eggplants: roasting takes the flavor from “green” to smoky and the texture from rubbery to creamy. Roasting an eggplant can be done in an oven or in your gas range’s broiler/frill. In this recipe, I’ll give instructions for the former, but The New York Times has the oven method covered.

I prefer this recipe without the optional chili powder, which makes the curry edge on just a little too spicy and masks the flavor more than I like, but for my readers who like the “kick in the face” style of spicy, add and enjoy!

This recipe is vegan if the optional yogurt garnish is omitted or non-dairy and gluten-free.

Eggplant Curry
Serves 3-4.

Inspired by “Palak Paneer” in The Ishikawa JET Cookbook

Ingredients

350 grams (2 large or 3 small) eggplants/aubergines (nasu, なす, 茄子)
Olive oil, for roasting

3 Tablespoons olive oil (orîbu oiru, オリーブオイル)
1 onion, chopped (tamanegi, タナネギ)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (ninniku, ニンニク)
1 dried red chili (aka togarashi, 赤唐辛子)
1/2 teaspoon tumeric (tâmerikku, ターメリック)
1 teaspoon cumin powder (or seeds) (kumin, クミン)
~300 mL diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) (katto tomato, カットトマト)
1 teaspoon garam masala (garamu masara, ガラムマサラ)
1/2 teaspoon dried/powdered coriander (coriandâ, コリアンダー)
1 teaspoon sugar (satô, 砂糖)
1 teaspoon salt (shio, 塩)
1 teaspoon pepper (koshô, 胡椒)
Optional: 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili powder (chiri paudâ, チリパウダー)
Optional: yogurt for garnish (yôguruto, ヨーグルト)

Equipment
A broiler or oven
A saucepan or pot
A blender (mikisâ, ミキサー)

Procedure
1. Preheat the grill while washing and drying the eggplants. Remove the stem and calyx; lightly coat with oil. If the eggplants are too big for the grill, cut in half lengthwise. If using an oven, see directions here.
2. Grill for about 7 minutes, then flip and grill for another 7 until the skin is crisp and purple and the flesh has softened and deflated slightly. Set aside to cool.
3. Heat the olive oil on medium-low in a sauce pan. Add roughly chopped onions and cook until translucent and soft.
4. Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife; slice and remove seeds from the chili pepper; and add both to the pan. Saute for another minute.
5. Add turmeric and cumin to the pan. Mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add tomatoes and stir to combine.
7. Add garam masala, salt, pepper, sugar, and coriander.
8. Carefully peel cooled eggplant. Scrape any flesh stuck on the skin off with a spoon. Add eggplant to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.
9. Optional: add chili powder.
10. Remove curry from heat. Run through a blender until the curry is incorporated and smooth.
11. Garnish with yogurt and serve with rice, flatbread, or naan.

Nutritional Information for 1 serving (serves 3)

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