These are fairy tale eggplant. I discovered them at a stand at the Copley Square Farmers' Market, and I've been eating a lot of them lately.
I'm not sure why they're called fairy tale eggplant, but I do know that they are magical. Unlike your regular-sized eggplant, which tend to require a remarkable amount of peeling, roasting, and frying before they turn soft and appealing, fairy tale eggplant require almost no work at all. Cut them in half, lay them on baking trays, roast them until their skins are slightly wrinkled, and their insides turn tender and creamy. You can eat them straight with nothing more than a little olive oil and salt.
I thought I'd give eggplant in green coconut curry a try.
You see, there's a restaurant called Thai Basil in the Pacific Place shopping complex in Hong Kong. Its prices have gone up over the years, while the portions have been steadily shrinking, but I still go there every time I'm in Hong Kong because of their lamb rack and eggplant in green coconut curry. The lamb is always cooked to medium-rare perfection, and the curried eggplant, mixed with rice, is comfort food of the very best kind.
Now, I know the theory behind Thai curry. It starts with a mortar and pestle, which you use to pound chilies and lemongrass and galangal and other things to make a sticky, aromatic curry paste. You fry this paste in oil, thin it with coconut milk, and then you add other ingredients and simmer until you have a delicious, fragrant dish.
In practice, I headed for my local supermarket and bought a tin of coconut milk and one jar of Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste.
Given that I wouldn't dream of buying jarred pasta sauce or bechamel sauce mix, this probably sounds awfully inconsistent. But I know the history and the culture involved when I cook French or Italian cuisine. I have a context, a framework, points of reference. Not so with Thai cuisine. I would be stumbling about in the dark, cooking in the void.
One of these days, I'll go out and buy a history of Thai cuisine, a set of the proper kitchen utensils, and a great big instructional tome on Thai cooking, and you'll hear all about the comedy of errors that ensues. (It'll probably involve my running all over Boston in an effort to find fresh galangal, and possibly end in a very bad mishap involving green chilies.)
But not today. It has to begin somewhere, and a jar of pre-prepared paste is as good a point as any. Using storebought paste results in a curry that sweeter and less complex than the curry you'll find in a good Thai restaurant, but it still makes for a satisfying meal. I'm glad to report that the brave souls who came to dinner - Bella, Danny, and David - all agreed.
Roasted Fairy Tale Eggplant in Green Curry
Hardly authentic, but quick and easy and comforting. This dish has very little protein in it, so if you're vegan, you may want tofu or some other protein-rich dish on the side.
(Serves one, with leftovers.)
Preheat oven to 400F. Take a pound of fairy tale eggplant, rinse them, and cut off the stem ends. Slice the eggplant in half, place them cut-side down on an oiled baking tray, and roast for thirty to forty minutes, or until the skins start to wrinkle. Remove the tray from the oven.
Heat a generous quantity of vegetable oil in a big frying pan (a wok would be the correct option, but let's not be fussy) over medium heat. Add one small sliced onion, and cook until soft. Scoop in several heaped spoonfuls of Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste. (I found that I needed a little more than half the four-ounce jar.) Cook, stirring continuously, until the paste starts to smell like something.
Pour in the contents of a fourteen-ounce can of coconut milk, and stir until you get a pale green creamy liquid. Turn down the heat, and allow it to simmer for three or four minutes.
Take your roasted eggplant, cut them in half if they're on the bigger side, and gently slide them into the curry. Stir and simmer for twenty or thirty minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Garnish with fresh basil and serve over white rice.