Every week on the Good Food Blog we celebrate Meatless Monday by sharing a vegetarian recipe from our archives.
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Smoky Eggplant with Garlic and Red Chiles
Here is an example that shatters the myth of turmeric as the omnipresent curry spice. Armed with only five ingredients, this recipe shows the layers of complexities you can create with a few readily available ingredients. I break the mold and serve this as a fascinating appetizer, slathered onto pieces of crostini (toasted slices of French or Italian bread), along with a glass of wine as a precursor to a full-blown, robust curry dinner.
2 medium-size eggplants (2 to 2 1/2 lbs total)
2 tsps rock salt
4 large cloves garlic
3 fresh red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed (see tip below)
2 Tablespoons Ghee or melted butter
1. Preheat a gas (or charcoal) grill, or the broiler, to high.
2. Prick the eggplants in multiple spots with a fork or knife (this prevents them from bursting when you grill or broil them). Don’t bother to remove the stems, since they will be discarded once you skin the eggplants. If you are grilling, place the eggplants on the grill grate, cover the grill, and cook, turning them periodically to ensure even grilling, until the skin is evenly charred, about 25 minutes. If you use the broiler, position the broiler rack so the eggplants will be about 6 inches from the heat. Place the eggplant directly on the rack, or on a rack in a broiler pan, and broil, turning them periodically, until the skin is evenly charred, about 25 minutes.
3. While the eggplants are grilling, sprinkle the rock salt into a mortar and add the garlic and chiles. With the pestle, pound the contents into a pulpy mass, frequently scraping the paste from the bottom and folding it within itself to ensure and even mix.
4. Place the grilled eggplants in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them sweat in their own heat until the skin appears shriveled, about 15 minutes. Once the eggplants are cool to the touch, peel them and discard the stems along with the skin. You will notice that there are eggplant juices in the bowl — make sure you do not discard them. Mash the eggplants well with a potato masher. (I often use a clean hand to do this if a masher is not handy.)
5. Fold the garlic-chile paste into the smoky-smelling eggplant.
6. Heat the ghee in a wok or a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant pâté and stir-fry for 10 to 12 minutes. This creates a second layer of roasted flavor and also roasts the garlic without burning it. Then serve.
Tip: Stop by any Asian grocery store to find mounds of fresh Thai chiles in the refrigerated produce section. Hand-pick the fiery reds for this recipe. If you don’t have access to such a store, go to the spice aisle of your supermarket, where you will find a jar or a bag of dried red chiles labeled Chiles Japones (means Japanese but these are Thai chiles) or Chile de Arbol(cayenne). Soak the required number of chiles in a bowl of hot water until reconsitituted, about 30 minutes.