Last Friday I came across some of the tiniest eggplants I've ever seen--not much bigger than olives. Immediately, several applications came to mind: a sort of mini-ratatouille; vegetable tartlets, with slices of these eggplants alternated with sliced small zucchini, fanned over the surface; a Moroccan-inspired eggplant and chick pea tajine. When the time came to cook, I settled on a panang curry with eggplant and tofu.
The process is ridiculously simple. Heat a spoonful of coconut oil in a large pot. Add a big gob of Thai panang curry paste and stir wildly. Add the eggplants, halved lengthwise, and stir until coated with the curry paste. Add coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until the eggplants are tender, and the liquid has thickened to a sauce. Add an eight-ounce block of firm organic* tofu, cut into half-inch cubes, and warm through. Throw in a handful of coarsely chopped basil and a bunch of scallions, slivered.
Stir, serve and eat.
While the eggplant dish was cooking, I made a quick salad. I had bought a huge green mango at the same time as the eggplants, with this salad in mind, but after a few days in my warm kitchen, it ripened from rock hard green to juicy yellow. No big loss, of course, if you love mangoes--most people would never know I intended this to be a green mango salad.
Then I put Thai green curry paste, lime juice, garlic, Udo's DHA Oil Blend, and fresh basil in a blender and blasted it to bright green smithereens.
As soon as the eggplant dish was ready, I tossed the salad with the green curry dressing. For a final touch, I sprinkled a generous amount of roasted cashews over each serving.
I brought the two curry dishes to the table together, not as an ideal serving method, but simply to avoid the need to get up in the middle of the meal and bring the second course. My wife has never cared about these things--although she does appreciate my usual observance of proper serving ritual--and it was just the two of us, after all. Common sense dictated we eat the hot dish first, but I knew this wouldn't take long enough for the salad to wilt, so why not? Sometimes I allow just a little laziness to influence the way I serve a meal--at home, that is.
I've heard arguments for and against eating your salad last. Some say you need to eat the raw part of your meal first, to awaken the palate, supply the stomach with live enzymes to aid digestion, and to go from lighter to heavier foods the way you would go from white to red wines, not the other way around. On the other side of the argument, others insist that eating the salad last refreshes and cleanses the palate, and brings the same digestive advantages suggested by advocates for eating salad first. You know what I suggest? Eat whatever you want, in any order you want, and see how you feel. If it works, don't listen to what anyone says. If it doesn't, try something else until you find what works for you. Pundits, by their very nature, are given to spouting whatever opinion will keep them in business; we're on our own to find out what's best for us.
*Note: If you want to avoid eating genetically modified soy as well as soy grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, always select organic tofu. Your call.