Spicy Indian Eggplant
I’ve never been much for eggplant. So when I found this Spicy Indian Eggplant recipe, I didn’t rush to make it right away. I figured I’d try it…eventually…but I didn’t plan to like it. Nuh-uh. Not for me. I guess I was a little jilted because the only ever time I’ve had eggplant, it was either breaded and fried or used as a replacement for chicken as Italian Eggplant Parmesan. Plus, I’ve always known that eggplant can be iffy. If you undercook it, it’s spongy. If you overcook it, it turns to icky mush. Or so I had experienced.
But they’re good for you! Did you know that? (I know you did!) Eggplant is high in dietary fiber, which protects you from colon cancer and aids in digestion. It contains zero fat and loads of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, folate, vitamin K, copper, vitamin B, tryptophan, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin B3. It also contains chlorogenic acid, which is high antioxidant plant compound that can both fight free radicals and lower bad cholesterol. Additionally, chlorogenic acid actually prevents cells from becoming cancerous and has antiviral properties. Nasunin is another antioxidant compound found in the eggplant peel, which prevents cancer cells from multiplying. Basically, nothing new. Another whole food that prevents cancer. No biggie. (Just kidding! It’s awesome!)
When I was a kid, I used to hate yellow squash. That is, until my mother grew it in her garden. When I had homegrown squash for the first time, I literally asked my mother if it was the same plant. Seriously. The taste was that different! So when I saw eggplant at the farmer’s market this past Saturday, I bought some (2 for $1) and figured I’d give it another try. But how to prepare it? Out came this recipe I’d tucked away! And boy am I glad I finally got around to it! Kinda wish I’d spent $2 instead of $1!
The first part of this recipe involves you slicing the eggplant into wedges, putting them in a colander, sprinkling them with sea salt and then…..WALKING AWAY. For 30 minutes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Indian food, it’s that it grows your patience. The secret to good Indian food is not primarily spices or ingredients. It’s TIME. I know this because when I first started cooking Indian cuisine, I used all the same ingredients that I do now, but it didn’t TASTE right. Once I started reading more about technique, I realized that all I had to do was…let that curry sauce simmer just ten more minutes…or let that chicken marinate for overnight versus 4 hours…or remember to take the time to dry roast my spices before-hand to release more of the flavor and aroma.
When I first started cooking Indian food, I was newly married, taking 18+ hours in school and working. One of those semesters, I even threw an internship in there, and I took a full load each summer. Let’s just say, I wasn’t exactly brimming with free time. What I learned to do was start dinner earlier…and then walk away. Not TOO far away—the next room—but while those onions are cooking down, I’d go take some chapter notes; or while the sauce was simmering, I’d go write part of an essay that was due that week. Cooking Indian food doesn’t have to make you a slave to your kitchen. It takes more time overall, but a lot of that time can be spent doing other things while you wait on your chicken to bake or sauce to simmer or tomatoes to reduce. And OH MY is it worth the wait!
Anyway, YOU’VE waited long enough for this recipe, so here goes.
- Large eggplant
- 2 large tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic (buy here)
- 2 inch piece ginger, minced
- 1 cup coconut oil (buy here) or 3/4 cup ghee (buy here)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (buy here)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (buy here)
- 1 TBSP coriander powder (buy here)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (buy here)
- 1 TBSP ginger powder (buy here)
So you’ve sliced the eggplant, salted it, waited 30 minutes, and a lot of the bitter juices should have sweated out by now. Now, you want to rinse off the salt, squeeze out any excess water, and pat dry with paper towels.
Take two fresh tomatoes, score a cross in the top of each and plunge into boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and peel away from the cross. The tomato skin should peel off beautifully. (Yes, those are tomatoes. They are just a different color.)
Next, throw these tomatoes into your food processor or Vitamix with garlic and ginger. Pureé and set aside for a moment.
Heat coconut oil in a large, deep, heavy-based frying pan, and when hot, add as many pieces of eggplant as you can in a single layer. Cook over medium heat until brown on both sides, then transfer to a sieve so that the excess oil can drain off. If there is any excess eggplant, repeat this step until it is all done.
Next, reheat the oil in the pan. There should be at least 1/4 c. left. (More is fine, too.) Add fennel seeds, cover with lid, and allow to pop for a few seconds.
Now, add tomato pureé and remaining spices BUT NOT THE EGGPLANT. Not yet. Patience. ; )
Simmer, stirring regularly for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and smooth and reduces a bit. Like this:
Carefully add the cooked eggplant so that the pieces stay whole, cover the pan, and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Pour off any excess oil before serving.
I apologize for the unfinished ending picture. I was so excited to try this dish that as soon as it was done, I scooped it up and threw it onto a plate with no regard to its presentation! The taste, however, blew me away! Why doesn’t everyone eat eggplant like this? This is surely one of the greatest ways invented! Did I mention I ate 2/3 of the entire batch in one sitting? Delicious!