Crispy Eggplant in Pumpkin Coconut Curry

Crispy Eggplant in Pumpkin Coconut Curry

Indian food runs a close second to Thai food for me, in terms of complexity and deliciousness!  Curries, which are remarkably simple between Thailand and India, are savory sauces with a complex blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and savory notes.  My favorite curries are the ones with a coconut milk base, rather than a broth base, because they are creamy, silken, and rich.

This recipe is for my vegetarian friends!  I get annoyed with manufacturers who try to change the vegetarian/vegan movement into a replication of the meat eating world.  I have ZERO interest in eating “vegetarian bacon” or any artificial replication of meat.  The vegetable world is so much more diverse than the world of meat…there is an infinite number of possibility with vegetables.  No need to try to force a heavily processed vegetable protein extract to look and taste like meat.

2-3 large eggplants (or equivalent amount of long, thin or tiny round eggplants)

Slice the eggplants into 1/4″ thick slices.  Sprinkle each slice with kosher salt on both sides, and pile all the slices in a big bowl.  Set it on the countertop for an hour.  Juices will be extracted from the eggplant and pool in the bottom of the bowl.  (Even better, place them in a large colander so the juices drain right out into the sink.)  Take each slice of eggplant and press it firmly between double layers of paper towels to press out the remaining juices.  You’ll end up with a limp, floppy, ugly slice of eggplant.  Don’t worry…you have to extract those juices in order to get the eggplant crispy.

Preheat your oven to 475F and place 2 baking sheets inside the oven to preheat as well.

Once all your slices are pressed, get a bowl and mix the following:

1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp each garam masala, yellow curry powder, cardamom, garlic powder
2 tsp table salt

Coat each slice of eggplant with the flour and dust off any excess.  When all the slices are coated and the oven is preheated, carefully remove one of the hot pans.  Pour a few Tablespoons of olive oil into the pan, and lay the eggplant slices into the pan.  Return the pans to the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes.  CAREFULLY remove the pans, flip the slices, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.  Remove the eggplant slices to cooling racks.  They should be fairly stiff, crispy, and golden brown.

In a large pot over medium high heat, saute in olive oil:

2 onions, diced

When the onions begin to take on a little color around the edges, add:

1/4 cup ginger garlic paste (this is a common ingredient in Asian and Indian foods…if you don’t have a jar of it, simply grate 2″ of fresh ginger root and add 6 garlic cloves finely minced)
1/4 cup tomato paste

Stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Then add:

1 Tablespoon each garam masala, cumin, coriander, cardamom, curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves or allspice

Stir constantly for 1 minute.  The spices and ginger will begin sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Then add:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

The vinegar will steam up and invade your nostrils.  I’m sorry about that, but it’s the only way.  Sometimes you have to suffer for your craft.  Stir the pot, scraping up the crusted spices and ginger on the bottom.  Then add:

2 cans coconut milk
1 can pumpkin puree (or 1 3/4 cups homemade pumpkin puree)

Stir well, then taste.  You will need to add salt, and possibly sugar, to achieve that perfect balance of sweet/salty/spicy/sour.  You may also have to add a little water or veggie stock to thin the curry a bit if it’s exceptionally thick.

For serving, you have two options.  You can pour the curry over basmati rice, then top with the crispy eggplant slices.  Or you can get a big pan and layer the curry and eggplant, almost like lasagne, and bake it in the oven at 325F for 20 minutes.  This softens the eggplant and infuses it with the curry flavors.  Either way, it’s delicious!  Top it with chopped cilantro.

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