Seared & Curried Eggplant

I wasn't going to post this recipe today. I was going to post a recipe for a gorgeous chia pudding with berries and bananas. Very red, white and blue, you know. Thing is, I just couldn't get myself excited about it. It was great, it was fine, but it felt so ho-hum sitting next to this recipe. Now this recipe--this has flavor. This gets me excited. 

Eggplant? Exciting? Yea, you heard me. If you had asked me a few years ago if eggplant was exciting, I would have laughed. The first thing that would have come to mind is that slimy Eggplant Parmesan with soggy breading that we all know and hate (some Eggplant Parmesan is delicious, but the bad versions are quite bad). 

I don't know when I first tried Baingan Bharta (Eggplany Curry), but it's the dish that redefined eggplant for me. 

I've had this dish in all sort of ways: some people puree the eggplant after cooking it, some people leave it chunkier. Some people serve it with more of a sauce, and some keep it simple.  I have enjoyed them all but none as much as when they're like this: the eggplant is seared, almost crispy on the outside and not at all soggy. The spices are blended with only a bit of tomato, so as not to overwhelm the dish, and it's loaded with heat. 

Recently I was listening to a radio show on NPR about Picky Eaters, and how kid's learn their eating habits. You know when you arrive at your destination and you just want to going around the block a few more times to finish listening to your show? It was one of those. I've always attributed my willingness to eat just about anything to my dad: when I was a kid, he had my try new things every week (this also probably played a role in turning me into such a foodie!). This show, however, explained why kids have different tastes than their parents: their tastebuds are still young and sensitive. I guess my tastebuds finally "matured" enough to like eggplant. ;) 

The moral of the entire interview? Try everything ten times. At least ten times. Try cooking it different ways, and try serving it with different things. One of them, you're sure to like! 

Seared & Curried Eggplant

Serves 4 

  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch nob ginger
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 t coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic and ginger. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet. One sizzling, add the onion, garlic and ginger. 
  2. Chop the jalapeño (if you have less tolerance for spice, consider taking out the seeds or even using less of the jalapeño) into a fine mince. Add it to the pan. 
  3. Dice the tomatoes into cubes. When the onions are translucent, add them to the pan, giving everything a stir. 
  4. Dice the eggplant. I like to chop it into little rectangles (about 1 cm x 1 cm x 4 cm), but bite sized cubes also works. Add the eggplant to the skillet, stirring into the onion mixture. Sprinkle salt over top, and stir in (this helps draw out the natural juices). Increase the heat a small amount, to medium-high. 
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the spices: if you are using whole spices, toast them in a separate skillet until fragrant (watch them closely) and then grind them. I like to leave them a bit chunky, but that's just me. Add the ground spices to the skillet with the eggplant and stir to incorporate evenly. 
  6. Continue to stir the eggplant on occasion. The seeds should begin to loosen and actually leave the eggplant. The edged of the eggplant should be seared (not soggy), but when you bite into it it should be cooked through (not foamy). 
  7. Serve warm! Many serve this as a main dish but I like it as a side dish with One-Pan Beef Korma or Slow Cooker Kashmiri Curry Leg of Lamb.

Easy Tomato Herb Dressing

I'm willing the greens in the garden to grow a bit faster with this recipe today. Every May I go through a little spurt of loving gardening. You know, before the weeds really set in. I can spend an hour checking on my sprouts, misting seedlings, and deadheading flowers with out even noticing. This is a passing phase--by July I'll be fed up with the hot sun, the wild grasses that have gone to seed, and the raspberry bush that always seems to under produce. That's why we have sprinklers, right?

This year I planted rows and rows of lettuce, swiss chard, and brussels sprouts. In my daze I even planted a purple sweet potato--right in between a melon plant and a Delicata squash- thinking for a moment it might grow like a regular potato. Come to find out, they don't grow like that at all.  I guess I got a little carried away! (I'm debating whether I should leave it there and see if something happens. I think it's just going to turn into squirrel food. Oops!). 

Whether I end up with sweet potatoes or not, I'll be making this dressing, and I'll be drizzling it all over any greens that walk into the house. Heck, I might even use tomatoes from the garden! 

This recipe is one of those I-can't-believe-it's-that-easy recipes. Literally all you have to do is blitz the ingredients in the blender. I keep it in a jar in the fridge and pour it over salads for a week straight with out complaining. Fresh herbs make this dressing worth raving about. I used basil, thyme, rosemary and chives (pretty much everything I had growing) but if you only have two of those its still worth trying. Fresh tomatoes make this dressing pop, while a touch of truffle oil keeps it grounded. A bit of salt and pepper, a zing of garlic--no wonder I'm getting impatient for those plants to grow! 

What are you growing in your gardens this year? Any gardening mis-haps or experiments? 

Easy Tomato Herb Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 large basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast or 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (I've had it both ways--they taste different, but are both good)
  • 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  1. ut all ingredients in the blender and purée until smooth. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper as needed. 
  2. Store in the fridge in an air tight jar for up to a week. 

Paleo Chicken Phở with Crispy Mushrooms

It's Friday, and it's eight AM. I think to myself: Today I'll take my bike to work, and at lunch I'll get a few miles in. It's going to be sunny, right?

I lift my bicycle onto the car's bike wrack, and put together an extra backpack with spare clothes. I pull on my tennis shoes--the ones with the insoles that are supposed to protect my old stress injuries from getting worse- and make sure to bring some sunglasses. 

By eleven it's pouring. As the rain drops hit the roof of my office, they make a lulling patter sound that dissolves into white noise. Disgruntled, I think, It'll pass, right? 

By one I've given up on the storm passing any time soon and have given in to midday tummy rumbles. Lunch. It's still dribbley outside, and the street looks more like a slip-and-slide than a open road. I settle into my chair and plan for a late afternoon ride. It never rains for more than five consecutive minutes in Colorado--it has to be over soon. 

I bury my head in my work and next thing I know, rays of sunshine are peaking through the clouds. This could actually work out perfectly! I look at the clock: Four forty-five. If the puddles drain fast, I could go for a quick ride after work! 

I wraps things up as best as I can. While I wait for someone else to finish something, I grab my pack and switch into clothes for riding. 

It couldn't have been more than ten minutes, but sure enough, by four fifty-five all evidence of sunshine had dispersed. Had I just imagined it all? The drizzle was back. I pulled out my phone and texted: "What do you want for dinner? Does Phở sound good?"

Is it weird that when the world seems overly wet, something made of mostly liquid could save the day? Phở is my rainy day savior. It's cozy, in a curl up on the couch sort of way. Sprigs of fresh herbs, a squirt of lime, and spicy jalapeño add cheeriness, making a bowl of phở feel fresh when everything around it feels utterly dreary. For this recipe, I use pre-cooked chicken. It's not authentic, but it get's dinner on the table in a snap and still hits the spot. You could easily swap in pre-cooked shrimp, sliced and cooked steak, or pork--what ever you prefer. The zoodles cook the moment they touch the soup, so I serve them in bowls raw and then ladle hot broth over top. Almost everything else stays fresh, and can be added in as you go. 

Paleo Chicken Phở with Crispy Mushrooms

Serves 2-3

Soup:

  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 4 whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-inch piece ginger 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast

For serving:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups bean sprouts (or other type of sprout)
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup sliced daikon radishes
  • Sriracha
  1. Dice the chicken, and add it to a pot with the broth along with the spices (whole), the salt and soy sauce (I use my Instant Pot pressure cooker). If cooking on the stove, simmer for 15 minutes; if using an Instant Pot, secure lit and turn to the soup setting for 1 minute. 
  2. While the soup cooks, heat the coconut oil in a skillet. Once the oil sizzles, add the mushrooms. Sear the mushrooms until crispy, stirring only occasionally.
  3. Spiralize the zucchini, slice the jalapeño and lime, and pull the leaves from the cilantro and basil. 
  4. To serve, place a handful of zucchini noodles in a bowl and ladle chicken soup over top (pulling out whole spices as you find them). Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, jalapeño, daikon, crispy mushrooms. Squeeze lime wedge over top, and drizzle with Sriracha.