Thursday, October 17, 2013

Indian-Spiced Eggplant & Cauliflower Stew

The more I experiment with my eggplant crop, the more I'm coming to appreciate what a versatile canvas it can be. Baba ganoush and eggplant Parmesan are two of the most iconic dishes for this gorgeous member of the nightshade family (ratatouille and moussaka being others), but I have to say I'm especially pleased with how it fares with the vibrant spices of Indian cuisine.

Curry powder and garam masala form the flavor backbone of this dish and their varieties myriad and varied, so choose ones that you really love for this recipe. Cauliflower and potato curry was the first one I ever prepared (and loved!), earning cauliflower an eternal welcome in any curry I make; it takes a turn as an expert companion to eggplant here. Onions, tomatoes, and chickpeas round out a typical cast of characters, all of those ingredients taking up classic Indian spices with great aplomb. The creamy swirl of yogurt or sour cream makes the tapestry of flavors especially vibrant, so barring veganism or lactose intolerance, I strongly encourage that finishing touch.

Though Indian food comes from a land that generally dare not dream of freezing temperatures, those flavors are just as delightful on chilly Wisconsin fall day as a searing one in Delhi. Flavorful bites call up images of warm and far away lands, while still linked to milder climes by familiar comforting spices of fall like cinnamon and cardamom.

Indian-Spiced Eggplant and Cauliflower Stew
adapted from Eating Well
serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1-pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 ounces small cauliflower florets
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, (optional)
Pita, rice, or naan, for serving (option)

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add curry powder, garam masala and mustard seeds and toast, stirring, until the spices begin to darken, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl.

2. Add oil, onion, garlic, ginger and salt to the pot and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in eggplant, cauliflower, tomatoes, chickpeas, water and the reserved spices. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, if desired, and serve with pita, rice, or naan, if desired.

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