If you keep up with this blog, you’ve learned by now that I am the veggie lover and my husband Don is the meat lover. We do cross paths on occasion—I am a strong believer in quality bone broth as part of my healthy winter regime, and Don eats (for the most part and with only a small amount of continual reluctance) my vegetable concoctions. That said, neither of us is willing to adapt in any significant way to the other’s lifestyle. We agree to disagree.
So when I find a vegetable and ways to cook it that make Don clean his plate, it’s a repeater. Which is exactly what I hit upon with this new eggplant-inspired curry. And don’t you think the name is just too cute? Hubba Bubba—what’s not to love about that?
Here’s how this started: Don will actually ENJOY eggplant if it is fixed appropriately. He loves classic eggplant parmesan, and he can eat an entire bowl of babba ghanoush all by himself. Further, I fix a lot of hummus in the summer—perfect for picnics and porch parties, easy to dress up or down, cold and ready from the frig any time of day or evening. Why not put this twosome—such close cousins anyway—together in a flexible, local market-inspired dish that Don would love. And he did! Cleaned that plate!
This dish is a winner on several levels, I think. If you don’t find exactly my list of ingredients, no problem. There are lots of alternatives, which I will mention as we go along. In fact, you don’t even need the eggplant (think zucchini), but I suggest you try the eggplant, since the combo of eggplant and hummus really turned out spectacular. I borrowed a lot of ideas from traditional baba ghanoush—cilantro, olive oil, tons of onion and garlic, but really this becomes its own star—star of India, I guess. A bigger plus—nearly all the vegetables are locally grown in my area, making this a green living winner, too.
Here’s the thing: I’ve put in an extra step that might seem unnecessary (big surprise, right?). I encourage you to prep your eggplant and grill the eggplant and tomatillos as I have outlined in the recipe. Sure, you could just chop them up and add them to the skillet near the start of the dish, but it will not be the same. Leaching the eggplant of its bitter water and then grilling it creates a depth of flavor and slight caramelization you will never get from just throwing it into the skillet. Same goes for those tomatillos, which tend to taste sort of sour and raw. But if you salt, oil and grill them, they develop a more rounded flavor; they still have a piquant quality, but it’s balanced by this savory-sweet, back-of-the-pallet experience. Be brave and go the extra step.
One thing more: the hummus. There’s a great recipe for roasted beet hummus on this blog, but plain hummus—which is what you want here–is even easier to make, and I’ll share that recipe after the main attraction. But I see that look on your face: quality store-bought hummus is really good and so much less work. Okay, there are some good hummus brands out there, but none will be as good as from-scratch homemade, in my opinion. Plus, you will have a ton in the frig that will easily last over a week, if stored well. So economical and convenient! But there’s a way more important reason to be super skeptical when using store-bought hummus…pesticides. At the end of the post, I’ll fill you in on the Environmental Working Group’s newest fight against Monsanto over food safety.
Okay last thing—promise! The spices used here are my favorites, but they may not be yours. You may not have all these in your kitchen, either. No worries! In India, each household has its own signature spice mix—a source of pride, a delicious unique fingerprint wafting out the windows of each woman’s kitchen. What wafts out of my kitchen windows does not necessarily smell or taste the same as what is wafting out of yours. Play around, experiment, be brave! And if you are having trouble finding what you need, my go-to is always Penzeys.
For now, let’s get cooking!
- Six to seven small to medium eggplants, either Japanese or globe or a mixture
- Ten to 12 tomatillos, husks removed
- Olive oil and coarse sea salt for grilling
- One-quarter cup unrefined coconut oil
- Two cups chopped onions, red or yellow or both
- One cup chopped fennel, plus some minced fronds if they are nice. No fennel? Try celery with leaves or even peeled, diced kohlrabi or turnip.
- Five cloves garlic, minced, or three or four diced garlic scapes or a combination
- One cup diced zucchini, patty pans or summer squash or a combination
- One to two tablespoons coconut butter spread (I suggest Earth Balance, my favorite)
- Two tablespoons fresh minced ginger
- One teaspoon each: turmeric, fennel powder, curry, coriander, mustard seed, cumin seed
- One-half teaspoon each: white pepper, allspice, cardamom
- Pinch hot pepper flakes and whole Charnushka
- One-inch stick Ceylon cinnamon
- One-quarter to one-half cup vegetable stock or water (just in case the vegetable mixture is too thick)
- One-half cup fresh lemon juice
- One-cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Wash the eggplants and slice: round discs for globe or lengthwise halves for Japanese. Place on clean towels, salt well with coarse sea salt, cover with another clean towel and weight (I use my cast iron skillet.) This procedure will help them taste much less bitter. Let them remain weighted for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash the tomatillos and slice in half horizontally. Coat them with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
- Prepare the grill for medium-high heat and use a vegetable basket or foil on the grate, since the tomatillos would fall right through—at least on our grill they would. You will want to start with the eggplant because it will take longer. You want to achieve a nice char, and some caramelizing for both vegetables. Thoroughly cook them, since they will be added to your skillet near the end of the cooking just to warm them through and mingle with the other ingredients. So soft and squishy is what you are looking for. Once done, set aside. Gilling takes about 30-40 minutes total.
- Have all the spices and the fresh ginger prepped and in a small bowl ready to add to the skillet.
- Heat the coconut oil in your largest chef’s skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and fennel with a dash of sea salt and sauté until tender and translucent, about 15 minutes.
- Add in the squash, a dash of salt and continue to sauté for another 10-15 minutes, until the squash is starting to soften.
- Make a well in the center of the sauté and add the coconut butter spread. Once you have a melted puddle, add all the spices, ginger and cinnamon stick. Simmer this spice mixture until it becomes fragrant, blooming in the coconut oil—about five minutes. Then, stir it all around to thoroughly incorporate it into the vegetables and add the cooked eggplant and tomatillos.
- If things seem a bit dry in the skillet, add in that quarter-cup to half-cup of stock or water. Be stingy because you don’t want this runny, and you don’t want the spicy sauce you are creating to be diluted. Start with a little and add more if you need. I added in about an eighth-cup of stock.
- Let all this come to a high simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes. While the curry is finishing up, prepare the lemon and cilantro. Stir in the lemon juice at the very end; then, remove the skillet from heat, fish out and toss the cinnamon stick, and add in the cilantro.
- Serve warm over creamy, cool classic hummus.
The prep time includes the time it takes to chop the veggies and spices and prep and grill the eggplant and tomatillos. If it helps your cooking schedule, do the grilling ahead by a few hours and start your skillet later. The eggplant and tomatillos will keep in the frig until they are needed in the skillet.
Here’s a quick look at how your veggies should look before and after grilling, just to give you a visual reference:
How to Make Your Own Hummus (and reasons why you should!)
Hummus is just a staple in our house—it is inexpensive, keeps well and makes a ton. It’s also a convenient way to add something special (that contains plant protein!) to all kinds of meals from Indian lentils to hearty breads to brunch eggs with roasted tomatoes (no kidding!). And here’s how you do it:
- Two cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed. (Okay, I see that look– “Why not use canned? Wouldn’t that be easier?” Well, it would, but you will be disappointed in the texture, the fact that there is probably BPA plastics leaching into your beans, and the absence of the delicious stock you need to complete the hummus to its light, fluffy, flavorful end. So, I guess it would be easier, but highly ill-advised.)
- About six cups filtered water—enough to cover your chickpeas by at least an inch
- Coarse sea salt
- One bay leaf (fresh if you can)
- Four or five large cloves garlic, chopped
- Four or five tablespoons fresh lemon juice (Adding a little zest is also quite nice.)
- One-half cup high-quality tahini (If you can find fresh-made, go for it. Whole Foods Market used to make their own but stopped some time ago. However, their 365 Organic is quite good, and what I usually reach for. If you make your own tahini, I worship you.)
- Hot pepper flakes to taste, optional
- Four-five tablespoons best-quality olive oil
- One bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Begin by placing your soaked chickpeas in the filtered water in a big stock pot. Salt well and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender, anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. While you want them to maintain some texture and integrity, you want the chickpeas to become creamy during processing, so they need to be soft but not mushy.
- Drain the chickpeas, reserving at least one cup of stock—usually, I reserve it all and use the extra in something else. Tons of flavor and a bit of protein to boot. Discard the bay leaf.
- Depending on the size of your processor, you’ll need to process the hummus in two or three batches. I start with chickpeas and stock, processing until they are fairly broken down and uniform. How much stock you use for the recipe sort of depends on the consistency you want. I typically use one cup, adding a half-cup to each of my two batches. Then I add some of the other ingredients, dividing them as evenly as I can per batch: garlic, lemon, pepper flakes and tahini.
- At the very end of processing each batch, I pour a tablespoon or two of the olive oil through the top tube to create that light and fluffy texture you will never get from pre-made. Now I process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary.
- I empty the hummus into a large storage bowl and repeat the process until all the chickpeas are processed with the other ingredients.
- Once everything is in the big storage bowl, I taste test to determine if I need more salt—most times yes, at least a little. Finally, I stir in the chopped parsley.
And that’s it. I’m not kidding—this is the best hummus you will ever eat. All organic and much safer, because….
According to a new report published by The Environmental Working Group (EWG), “The health-food staple hummus and the chickpeas it is made from can be contaminated with high levels of glyphosate, a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer.” This bad news came to light in recent independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG. Unfortunately, their tests found glyphosate in other kinds of dry and canned beans, dry lentils and garbanzo flour, as well.
The EWG tested 43 conventional (non-organic) chickpea and chickpea-based samples and found that more than 90 percent had detectable levels of glyphosate. “Over one-third of the 33 conventional hummus samples exceeded EWG’s health-based benchmark for daily consumption, based on a 60-gram serving of hummus (about four tablespoons). One sample of hummus had nearly 15 times as much glyphosate as EWG’s benchmark, and one of two tests from a sample of conventional dry chickpeas exceeded even the Environmental Protection Agency’s too-permissive legal standard.”
But organic, I’m sad to say, isn’t a get-out-of-pesticide-jail-free card, either. EWG also tested 12 samples of organic hummus and six samples of organic chickpeas. Most contained glyphosate, but at much lower levels than their conventional counterparts: “All but two were below our scientists’ health-based benchmark, although one dry chickpea sample had the highest average level of all our samples.” Since glyphosate use is not permitted on organic crops, EWG believes these samples may have been contaminated by the chemical drifting from nearby conventional crop fields, where it was likely sprayed as a pre-harvest drying agent.
So, the bottom line: it is best to do a little research, buy from trusted organic sources and choose dry over canned, organic over conventional and know you’ve done the best for your family that you can possibly do. Be brave. But there’s one thing more you can do—sign EWG’s petition to get glyphosate out of our foods—like cereals, for goodness sakes! And donate if you can to keep their critical work going.