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Tomato-Chickpea Curry in Eggplant Shells

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

There’s something delightful and festive about stuffed vegetables. In this ease, each diner gets an impressive eggplant “barge” bearing a cargo of curried chickpeas. Unlike most stuffed vegetable dishes, this one is quick and easy to prepare. You’ll start by roasting halved eggplants, then scooping out the flesh and cooking it with chickpeas, tomatoes, dried coconut, and toasted mustard seeds. You can make this filling as hot as you like by adding cayenne; since cayenne is potent stuff, start with a pinch and add more gradually. To speed things up, begin preparing the ingredients for the filling while the eggplant is in the oven.

Notes

Carrot Slaw with Mango Chutney Dressing makes a nice accompaniment. The stuffed eggplant is quite filling, so most people will do just fine without rice.

4 servings

Cooking Methodroasting

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, vegan, vegetarian

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, spiced

Type of Dishvegetable

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants (1 to 1¼ pounds each)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • Salt to taste, plus ¼ teaspoon
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds (they’re actually reddish brown)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 1½ tablespoons mild curry powder, such as Merwanjee Poonjianjee & Sons, plus more if needed
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas or one 15-ounce can, drained
  • ½ cup dried, unsweetened, grated coconut (available in health-food stores)
  • Cayenne
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450°F. Lightly oil one or two roasting pans large enough to hold the eggplant halves in one layer. Add 1/8 inch of water.

  2. Leaving the stem intact, halve the eggplants lengthwise. Use the tip of a paring knife to score the flesh side deeply in a crisscross pattern. Brush the cut side with oil, season with salt and pepper, and set flesh side down in the roasting pans. Brush the skins with oil.

  3. Roast until the eggplants are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 18 to 25 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes and add more water, if needed.) When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, use a paring or grapefruit knife to create a ½-inch “wall” all around, and then scoop out the flesh. Coarsely chop the flesh (including seeds) and set aside. Lightly season the eggplant shells with salt and pepper, and reserve them in a warm place.

  4. To prepare the filling, first toast the mustard seeds: heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir in the mustard seeds, cover the pot, and leave the heat turned to high. Listen carefully: as soon as you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop against the lid, turn off the heat (remove to a cool burner if using an electric stove), and wait for the popping to subside. Most of the seeds should now be gray.

  5. Stir the onions into the mustard seeds and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions start to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add a bit more oil during this time if the onions are sticking. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 10 seconds. Then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, coconut, reserved eggplant flesh, salt, and cayenne to taste. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas develop a curried flavor, about 15 minutes. During this time, add more curry and salt, if needed, and stir in a few tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes dry.

  6. Mound the filling into the eggplant shells. (If you have a little extra filling, enjoy a snack.) Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro, if you wish, and serve immediately.

  7. Other Ideas:

  8. If you’re not fond of coconut, feel free to leave it out. (You may need less salt.)

  9. Substitute diced tomatoes with green chiles for the plain tomatoes.

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