I’m on a little bit of an eggplant kick right now. Part of it is that the amazing variety of colors and shapes of eggplants at the farmer’s market are pretty inspiring. And part of it is that it has finally sunk in that no, you don’t always need to salt an eggplant in order to make it edible. I must have eaten some tough and bitter eggplant in my youth to have been so wary of the vegetable, but these days I just can’t get enough. The only turn-off, for me, is that it sops up oil like a sponge, making what should be a healthy, innocuous veggie into a fat trap.
Not letting that deter me, it just means I have to search a bit more for recipes that can still be called healthy. Looking for new ideas, I turned to Mark Bittman’s classic How to Cook Everything and found this recipe for curried eggplant with potatoes. My first thought was that this would make great leftovers to pack up for lunch for days on end. Indeed, I think I ended up eating curried eggplant with potatoes (atop rice) for lunch literally every day this week. And I think that was the perfect niche for this dish- it doesn’t have quite the wow factor or panache that you’d want out of a special dinner meal, but it keeps well, travels well, and was, all in all as nice on Friday at lunch as it was right out of the skillet earlier in the week. I added a can of chick peas for a bit more texture (Bittman doesn’t include them) and would suggest that if you like your curries strong and spicy, kick it up a notch by adding your own mix of spices. As the recipe is given, while you can taste the pungent spices, they are definitely on the mild side, making the dish a little more unassuming and less memorable than it might otherwise be.
Curried eggplant with potatoes (makes 6-8 servings)
2-3 lbs eggplant (choose whatever variety you like)
1 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp sliced garlic
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter (I used slightly less, more like 1/3 stick)
3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped (you can use canned, don’t bother to drain)
3 large potatoes of any kind, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 1 cup water, more if needed
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
minced cilantro for garnish
1. Peel the eggplant if the skin is thick or eggplant is not perfectly firm. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and salt if you like.
2. Combine the oil and mustard seeds in a large deep skillet or casserole. Turn heat to medium and cook until the seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add remaining spices, ginger, garlic, butter, and cook, stirring occsionally, until the ginger and garlic soften, about 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, salt, and pepper, and about a cup of water. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring once or twice, for about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the cover and turn the hear to medium. Add more water if the mixture is dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both the eggplant and potatoes are veyr tender, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Garnish and serve over rice.