Thursday, November 13, 2008

Best cookbooks 2008: 660 Curries

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2008 at 9:51 PM

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My brother was in India last year for a month, and he came back smelling different and with a serious curry addiction. A year later, nothing has come close to curing his longing - that is until we came across 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (Workman, $32.50). The book is so exhaustive, there are  25 eggplant-based curries, and 3 that have eggplant and potato as their primary ingredients.

The book also covers Indian breads, a few relishes and pickles, and many stories, tips and observations that make for a good read.

We decided on this cold and misty Atlanta afternoon to make Jairam's Potatoes and Eggplant with a Garlic-Chile Sauce. Like many of the recipes in the book, the curry relies entirely on whole and fresh spices rather than blends. The resulting dish was spicy, hearty and incredibly comforting. The book said this recipe serves 6, but my brother and I ate up the whole pot for lunch. I see this is a bit of a trend this week, so the problem may not be the recipes but more that I'm a glutton.

Jairam's Potatoes and Eggplant from 660 Curries

1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.

1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves

4 large garlic cloves

3 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed

2 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/8 inch thick)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

5 small purple Indian eggplants, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1. Drain the potatoes

2. Combine the cilantro, garlic, chiles and ginger in a food processor, and pulse until the ingredients are minced.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seems and cook until they sizzle, about 5 seconds. Immediately add the onion and stir-fry until the slices are light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add the cilantro-garlic blend and continue to stir-fry until the garlic is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, about 30 seconds.

5. Toss the potatoes and eggplant, and stir until they are coated with the seasonings, 1-2 minutes. Then add 1 cup water and scrape the pan to deglaze it, releasing the browned bits of onion and garlic. Stir in another 1 cup water and add the salt. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fall-apart tender and the sauce is glossy and slightly thickened, 20-25 minutes. Serve.

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