Monday, June 13, 2011

Eggplant Green Curry

In "Two Spicy Salads," I made reference to a dish that followed the twin protagonists of that post, and I thought I might just quickly explain. As I had mentioned, there were three Indian eggplants in the back of my refrigerator that were on the verge of beginning to languish, so I decided to rescue them and put them to good use before it was too late.

These eggplants are long and fairly thin--about two inches at their thickest point--compared to the large eggplants most people are familiar with. They also have very small seeds, which makes them palatable even when not fully cooked. This is ideal for a Thai-style curry, in which the vegetables are basically stir-fried quickly and then cooked in coconut milk for just as long as it takes for the sauce to thicken. Mushy eggplants would not do.

To make this dish, I heated some coconut oil in a large pot and added a green pepper, quartered lengthwise and then cut crosswise into slices about 1/8-inch thick. As soon as the aroma of the peppers arose from the pot, I added the eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and then cut on a sharp diagonal into slices about 1/4-inch thick. I was stirring furiously at this point, to keep one or two slices from soaking up all the remaining oil. It went well. After a minute or two, I added a tremendous gob (about 3 tablespoons) of Thai green curry paste, and stirred to spread it throughout the vegetables. Then I added about three cups of coconut milk and brought it to a simmer. I cooked the curry for another three or four minutes, until the coconut milk had thickened and the eggplants were just barely tender. Then I  folded in a half-pound of extra firm (organic!) tofu, cut into small cubes, and warmed it through.

I would have added a large handful of torn basil leaves at the end, but our plants are still recovering from the last pesto-pillaging. What to do? I had a luxuriant bunch of mint I bought at the Indian store, so I substituted with that--they are in the same family, after all. Although they differ wildly, I knew mint would be a good second choice for this dish. The effect was even better than expected; the eggplant and mint were playing off one another, darting up from the creamy envelope of spicy green curry sauce, with occasional bursts of green pepper popping up throughout.

To serve, I turned the curry into a serving dish and scattered thinly sliced scallions over the top. I decided to take a holiday from whole grains just for this one occasion, because I had a hankering for the taste and texture of basmati rice with the curry. That's the advantage of eating well as a rule--when you want to break the rule, you can generally get away with it. And I did.

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