Much as it’s hard not to mourn the end of summer and its wonderful smells and icy cocktails, it’s impossible not to get excited about fall. In fall, I get to wear my sparkle tights and squeeze my fat noggin into cute little hats and, of course, there are boots. Leather boots, ankle boots, polka-dot galoshes – sartorially, you could even call it my favourite season. Give me a breath of foggy air and a smear of red lipstick over aloe sticky and chaffing thighs any day.
And the eggplants.
Cute, little baby eggplants.
And it’s the time of year for soothing things like sweet coconut milky curries, spicy/full-mouth-flavourful and soothing. The right green curry paste is important, and I follow Chez Pim’s recipe for consistent success. I like to make a bunch ahead of time and store it in a jar in the fridge for when I need it, but it’s relatively easy for me to do this – I live in Vancouver, where all of the ingredients are not only plentiful and easy to find, but cheap. That doesn’t mean you can’t make this as well, and I wouldn’t frown at you for buying it. One of the things you should always keep in your fridge is a bit of Thai curry paste – red or green. It’s an easy addition to any weeknight repertoire, and you can buy it in almost any grocery store, in the ethnic food section.
Also, the nice thing about this stuff is that it’s even better the next day, so when you take it to work and reheat it in the office microwave, the smell will make everyone jealous about how awesome your lunch life is.
I’m assuming you’re going to buy the curry paste, because, honestly, life is too short to make it all the time and I linked to Pim’s recipe if you’re keen, but most people have real lives that get in the way of making large batches of this sort of thing. I don’t, of course. But you probably already knew that.
So chop up your eggplants, some ripe bell peppers, and a sweet onion, mince your basil and garlic and ginger, and bask in the smells of somewhere else for a little while. For something so exotic, it sure makes your kitchen smell homey.
Eggplant green curry
- 1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- 2 tbsp. minced ginger
- 1 tsp. of chili sauce, sriracha, sambal oelek, or Tabasco, or to taste (I always add too much because I likes it)
- 6 to 8 baby eggplants, quartered, or one large eggplant, cubed
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 medium sweet onion, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia, cut into strips
- 1 cup chopped white mushrooms (which I ran out of before I made this … and I missed them)
- 1 tbsp. green curry paste, or to taste (again, I like it pungent and always use way more)
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 3 cups coconut milk (or two cans, if that’s what you’ve got – no sense in tossing a tiny little bit, right?)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts (optional – again, I was out. Boo.)
Heat up the oil in a large pan, and when it’s shimmering-hot, reduce heat to medium-high, and throw in your garlic and ginger, and saute until the garlic and ginger have turned just slightly golden. Add the chilies, onion. and eggplant. Saute until the onions are translucent and the eggplants have browned slightly. Throw in the peppers, curry paste, lime zest and juice, and give it all a minute or two, until the peppers have softened slightly.
The smell is intoxicating, and reminds me of night markets beside the Fraser River and restaurants where you sip lime sodas while you wait in line and glittered tapestry elephants saddled in gold and pink and red.
Add the coconut milk, and simmer for three to five minutes, until the eggplants have soaked up the sweet milkiness and the other vegetables have sufficiently wilted, but not so long that the peppers lose their verve and redness. The eggplants should not cook so long that they are brown and grey and smooshy. A bit of white flesh means that they are still firm. Texture = good. Season to taste – I sometimes add more curry paste at this point. Stir in half of the basil before serving, and pour over rice.
Sprinkle with remaining basil and bean sprouts. Serve with a sprightly French Gewurtzraminer and slices of fresh lime. Be wearing a sweater, and, like a Thai elephant, maybe a little too much makeup. For a weeknight, anyway.