Eggplant Curry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
I feel like I’ve been holding out on you with this one. I’ve made this three times in the past year and somehow never got decent photos until now. Every time I make it I’m surprised by the same three things:
1. How weird eggplant looks when it’s pan-fried.
2. How long it takes to bake. (I keep forgetting it’s almost an hour and don’t plan for it.)
3. How amazing it tastes, despite my doubts when I taste the sauce (before it bakes) and the weird resistance I feel using Parmesan cheese in an Indian dish.
I like to think of this as the Indian version of Eggplant Parmesan, which I love. You must, must serve this with the yogurt sauce, which compliments the curry amazingly well. We also served this with additional cucumber slices and some pita bread. I don’t think I would put it over rice because it would dilute the flavors too much.
Go grab a nice eggplant before they go out of season and give this a whirl. You can even make it a few days ahead of time and reheat it. (I’ve tried it, and it was just as great.)
Eggplant Curry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Yield: Serves about 6.
Eggplant Curry with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce is my favorite vegetarian curry! It’s a bit of work to put together, but completely worth the effort.
for the cucumber-yogurt sauce:
3/4 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 a cucumber, peeled and grated (about 2/3 cup)
for the curry:
2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs total), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices
About 1/2 cup avocado or coconut oil for sauteing and frying
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
5 medium plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 Tablespoon good quality curry powder (or homemade, even), divided
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teasopons ground cardamom
pinch of saffron (optional, it’s good with and without)
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken/vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the yogurt sauce, mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use. TIP: can be made a day ahead.
Sprinkle eggplant slices lightly with salt. Let them stand for 30 minutes. (Important, don’t skip this!)
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, tomatoes, 1 1/2 Tablespoon curry powder and remaining spices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables until soft, about 6 minutes. Add wine/broth; let some of the liquid cook off, another 3-5 minutes. (The original recipe said it would take two minutes until the mixture was “almost dry”. Um, not the times I made it. Mine wasn’t even “almost dry”, but it wasn’t as soupy as before.) Cool slightly. Puree with a stick/immersion blender or transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Strain. (If you want. I never strained it. I didn’t want to dirty more dishes, and I think it turned out great.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pat eggplant slices dry and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder. Coat both sides with flour.
Heat 2-3 Tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, fry eggplant for about 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Lightly oil an 11x7x2 baking dish. Place about 1/3 of eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/3 of curry sauce over the eggplant, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the layering two more times. Bake until bubbling around the edges and cheese is golden, 45-50 minutes. TIP: Can be made a day ahead. Simply cool, cover, and chill. To rewarm, uncover and cook it for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees F.
Spread a little cucumber yogurt sauce on each plate and place a square of the eggplant curry on top of the sauce. Serve with sliced cucumber and pita bread, if desired.
Nat’s Note: Cardamom is a common spice used in Indian cooking. It comes in pods or ground up. You can find both at an ethnic food market. The ground cardamom can also be found in well-stocked grocery stores in the spice section.
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine