Curried eggplant & sweet onion with quinoa

eggplant_quinoa

Here in southern California, it still mostly feels like mid-July; beaches are peppered with people every weekend, I’m in shorts daily and well, it’s 85 degrees outside. But still, it’s October. Pumpkin spice lattes are here, department stores are gearing up for Christmas and I’m eyeing bomber jackets. It may feel like summer, but everything in me says fall. So, I’m going to behave accordingly.

Enter summer-to-fall transition dishes, like this eggplant & sweet onion spiced in curry powder and sauteed in coconut oil, served with a side of quinoa and toasted pinenuts. I followed the rules: I used farmer’s market produce (they’re still stocked with eggplant, tomatoes and peaches), but I also used sweet spices and rich coconut oil to make this dish feel just a little warm and festive.

Eggplant is sort of a conundrum; it’s hefty and spongey before cooked, and absorbs liquid rapidly, making it difficult to prepare without using a ton of oil. The trick is to slice it very thinly, cook it low and slow, and use a little water as well as oil. The result is silky, decadent and slightly sweet, especially with the addition of yellow onions. Curry is unexpected but seems altogether right when finished, and adds a pretty golden hue to the otherwise un-pretty brown-ness of cooked eggplant. Serve this with quinoa, as I suggested, or rice. It’s warm, easy and nudges its way into the season.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant or 1/2 large eggplant (I used 1/2; mine was very large)
  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1-2 tablespoons pinenuts

How to:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons coconut oil over high heat.
  2. In the meanwhile, thinly slice onion into rings (about 1/4 inch; very thin!). Set aside.
  3. Half your eggplant, if using a whole eggplant. Then half it again, so that it’s in quartered spears. Now thinly slice the eggplant, also 1/4 inch thick (it’s not really important how you cut it; just make sure it’s sliced thin- otherwise it will take forever to cook).
  4. When oil is hot (it will slide around the pan easily), add sliced eggplant and onion to the pan and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle on the curry powder, and season generously with salt and pepper. Turn everything around gently with a spatula to make sure everything is evenly coated with oil and spices.
  5. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan, as it has probably already absorbed the oil. Turn the heat to very low and cover the pan (if you don’t have a lid, use foil as I did).
  6. Cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Check every 5-10 minutes, turning the veggies so everything cooks evenly. If it seems very dry, add additional water.
  7. You can tell when the veggies are cooked when the eggplant is no longer opaque- it should look clear-ish and break easily with a spoon. Remove from heat. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.
  8. Remove eggplant and onions from pan and add pinenuts. Put the pan over high heat and shake around frequently for a couple minutes, until the pinenuts are toasty.
  9. Serve the eggplant and onions alongside your cooked quinoa. Garnish with toasted pinenuts and a little mint, as I did.

Serves two.

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