Last Saturday was not a Hemingway in Paris type of Fall day. It was cool and sunny, and I rode my bike along the Hudson river without sentiment (although there was plenty of red sediment in the river itself from flooding upstate). I wore a sweater and a scarf and fingerless gloves which came off (the gloves, not the sweater, or the scarf for that matter) soon after we reached the market at Union Square.
There is a lady at the market who sells Mexican food from a small wire shopping cart–the kind you see old ladies pulling into Fairway, the kind with plastic wheels that fall off if you don’t know the exact angle at which to push around a corner. She always has a circle of people around her, peering over her shoulder into red coolers full of sauces and fillings. This week we tried gorditas. They were spicy. Good and spicy. My tongue tickled from the burn, but I couldn’t stop. And then I wanted another one.
The market wasn’t crowded this week, so we were done our shopping and back on our bikes by 9am. We would have been home napping by 9:45 if it weren’t for the motorcycles. My front tire had just touched the Henry Hudson when a police officer in an SUV blocking the crosswalk waved me back. Behind him, a parade of motorcycles came rumbling up the highway. A long parade.
People began to crowd at the crosswalk. I wanted to join the two kids shielding their ears from biker thunder. I exchanged a smile of commiseration with a woman in a gray suit. We waited and waited, and the bikers kept coming and coming. Cars waiting to turn on the highway honked with nowhere to go, adding to the cacophony. A runner stopped next to me, yelled “fuck!”, and decided to cross anyway, weaving through the motorcycles as if she were on the streets of Hanoi.
We were delayed again by the wind. Riding north on the river path, the wind was in my face. Each curve in the path brought another gust, and the entire way home felt like an uphill struggle. The wind is my enemy. I even started swearing at it. I was swearing at the wind.
All of this brings me to eggplant curry. When we got home, we were cold and tired. Curry fixes both of those things. Plus, eggplants are related to tobacco. 20lbs of eggplant = the same amount of nicotine as 1 cigarette.
1. Cube 1 lb eggplant and put in a bowl. Sprinkle eggplant cubes with some ground turmeric and salt. Set aside.
2. Cut 2 small onions in half (the long way) and slice lengthwise (not across).
3. Slice 4 chilies lengthwise.
4. Heat oil in a large pan. I used a cast iron pan, but a wok would work as well. Add the eggplant and fry until soft and light brown. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil and takes a while to cook, so add more oil if necessary. It will take about 5-10 minutes, but eventually the eggplant will begin to release some of the oil. When the eggplant is done, remove from pan and set aside.
5. Add more oil to pan if necessary and fry the onion until soft. Mix in 1 tbs curry powder and the green chilies. Add 1 cup coconut milk and salt to taste. Boil until coconut milk begins to thicken. Stir in eggplant and cook until sauce becomes the consistency of gravy.
6. In a small pan heat a very small amount of oil and add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 4 dried curry leaves. Cook until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. This is the tempering oil. Remove the curry leaves and pour over the eggplant mixture.
7. Squeeze at least 2 tsp of lime juice into curry, but add more if the dish needs more acid.
8. Serve over brown rice.