I often invite people over for dinner, but just as often, I cook for myself. I halve most recipes (you've probably noticed that on here), and then I usually have leftovers for at least one lunch, and sometimes I freeze leftovers for another time. I really enjoy cooking, and it's nice to make dinner decisions based on what I feel like eating, and what I have around the kitchen. But every once in a while, and this was one of those times, I wonder midway into the effort just why I'm trying so hard. Let me explain.
When I was peeling the potatoes for this recipe, I clipped my finger tip slightly - nothing serious, not even any blood, but it stung quite a bit, and it certainly slowed down my momentum. I wrapped up my finger with a bandage to protect it from the food (and the food from it, for that matter), and forged ahead. I measured all the spices, and peeled and minced the ginger, and peeled and sliced the garlic, and salted the eggplant and cubed the potatoes. I began to cook the spices, took a picture (for this very blog post), turned around, and the pan of spices had burned right into a solid, smoking, black disk.
I turned off the heat, nursed my finger, scooped out the burned disk of spices, and washed the pan - burning my hand slightly when some hot oil spattered. At this point, my momentum pretty much halted. I looked around at the sliced and salted eggplant, which had been resting for two hours, at the potatoes that I had hurt myself preparing, and at the can of tomatoes I had already opened. I tipped up my chin, put the pan back on the stove, and began measuring out the spices again, peeling and slicing more garlic, and peeling and mincing more ginger. I proceeded carefully, monitored temperatures closely, and everything came together as it was meant to. At 10:30, I sat down with a bowl of curried eggplant and potatoes and thought, "It's really a shame that there's nobody else to enjoy this." The next day I invited a friend over for dinner, told her the story, and served the leftovers on rice. She confirmed my findings - this recipe is delicious.
Lest you be scared off - it's actually quite simple, too. Keep your fingertips in while you peel, and monitor those temperatures when you initially heat the spices in the oil. It's smooth sailing from there! I halved this recipe, but wish that I hadn't - it would freeze nicely, and I could eat it many times before tiring of it! Here's the recipe in full.
Curried Eggplant and Potatoes
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2 medium-to-large eggplants
1 Tbsp canola 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 butter
3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped (canned are fine, don't bother to drain)
3 large potatoes, any kind, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 1 cup water, or more if needed
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
minced cilantro leaves for garnish
Peel the eggplant if the skin is thick or the eggplant is less than perfectly firm. Cut it into 1/2 inch cubes and salt if it you like. (I did - just sprinkle salt generously over each side of the eggplant and let it sit in a colander for at least half an hour. Rinse and squeeze dry between paper towels before using.)
Combine the oil and mustard seeds in a large deep skillet. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spices, the ginger, the garlic, and the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the ginger and garlic soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the 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.
Remove the cover and turn the heat to medium; add more water if the mixture is dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both the eggplant and potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Garnish and serve.