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Currying flavor with enticing eggplants

Published: February 5, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.


<i>PHOTO BY Alison Channon/The Hoot</i>I love eggplant. But until recently, I’ve been insecure cooking it. I would always order eggplant at restaurants (and I have paid for some delicious eggplant), but it seemed a shame that I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to cook one of my favorite vegetables in my own kitchen. After a bit of internet perusing and a fair share of experimentation, I have finally developed a fool-proof and extremely delicious recipe for eggplant curry.

Along the way, I fell into my fair share of pitfalls. The vegetable can be bitter and if sautéing, it can soak up oil like a sponge, leaving you with a greasy mess. But its deliciousness urges us to press on, and so I offer you my wisdom and recipe in hopes that you will go forth and conquer.

My main tip for eggplant is SALT. If you are going to sauté eggplant, heed the recipe when it tells you to salt the eggplant and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. In addition to flavoring a vegetable that can be bland, salting and rinsing the eggplant drains a lot of the excess water thereby preventing your eggplant from absorbing all the oil you drizzle in your pan.

My other tip is that eggplant takes time. It is not a vegetable that wants to be rushed–but I promise it’s worth it.

Now, if you want to avoid the problem of salting and oil-absorbing all together, my eggplant curry is perfect, though it is definitely not a 30 minute meal. My attempt at Indian cuisine may be amateur, but my roommates, my parents, and I can all attest – it is thoroughly delicious.

Tools:

Roasting dish

Serrated knife

Pairing knife

Chef’s knife

Cutting board

Small sauce pan with lid

Sauté pan

Measuring cup

Measuring spoons

Oven mits

Ingredients:

1 standard eggplant

1 clove garlic, diced

1 onion, sliced

½ can chickpeas

¾ teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of cayenne pepper

½ cup brown rice

1.25 cups water

Olive oil

Salt

1. Before you begin anything, set your oven to 450 degrees.

2. Then, rinse your eggplant and poke holes in it. We are going to roast the eggplant whole so we need to allow the steam to escape. I like to use a pairing knife for this step because it’s small, but any knife will work. I usually poke between nine and 12 holes in all.

3. Once the eggplant is oven-safe, place it in a roasting pan and put it into the oven for 45-55 minutes. I generally leave the eggplant in for 50 minutes, just to make sure it’s tender.

4. If you’re using brown rice, your next step is to get it on the stove. Place half a cup of brown rice in a saucepan with one-and-a-quarter cups of water. Cover and turn the burner to high. Once it starts to boil, drop the heat down to low. It should take about 40 minutes to cook. If you decide to use white rice or basmati rice, you can wait to put the rice on. And remember, the ratio for basmati and white rice is two cups water to one cup rice.

5. While the rice and eggplant are cooking, prepare your onions and garlic. Using your chef’s knife, slice your onion. I like to cut off each end, cut the onion in half (slice down through the end you just cut) and then remove the skin.

6. Then smash your garlic with your chef’s knife (DO NOT BE TIMID! This is one of the most fun parts of cooking.), peel away the skin, slice off the ends, and then run your knife through the garlic.

7. About 10 minutes before you take the eggplant out of the oven, coat the bottom of your sauté pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Turn the heat to somewhere between low and medium and add your onions and garlic. We want the onions to be translucent and tender. We do not want brown onions or garlic. Let the onions and garlic sweat for 8 to 10 minutes.

8. Take the eggplant out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Be careful. The eggplant will be very hot.

9. Use your serrated knife to cut off the ends of the eggplant. I suggest leaving the eggplant in the roasting dish and steadying the eggplant with your oven mit or pot holder protected hand. Let cool for another couple of minutes.

10. In the meantime, add the spices to your sauté pan. Stir so the spices are incorporated into the oil and onions.

11. Then use your serrated knife to slice the eggplant. Add the sliced eggplant to the sauté pan along with the half can of chickpeas. Stir and add salt to taste.

12. Serve the curry over the rice. Enjoy and feel proud of your creation.