Curried Okra-Eggplant Stew with Basil and Coconut Milk
July 23rd, 2010 · 8 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes
The first okra is here!
If you couldn’t tell from the heat, the first okra from the garden is a sure sign that summer is in full swing. Okra loves the heat and humidity here in the District of Columbia, so we have to love okra right back. It is happy to make pods for us like crazy. We will be challenged the next few weeks to keep up. It grows so fast, there are times we are harvesting pods twice a day. When we can’t eat it all, we make our favorite spicy okra pickles. Sometimes we freeze it.
Often this time of year dinner is an improvisation using whatever happens to be ripe in the garden. Some of our best dishes are pure inventions from ingredients that just fell into our laps. We are having great success with eggplant this year. The plants love our compost and they’re heavy with fruit. Watching the eggplant swell day after day, I’ve been formulating a recipe in my mind that would somehow marry eggplant and okra, two vegetables that I think were meant to be together. So treat this recipe as a rough guide and feel free to improvise on your own.
You will need an onion, a medium eggplant and about a half-pound of okra. To supplement the okra I harvested, I pulled a bag of okra from the freezer. Altogether, it was probably closer to a full pound. You’ll also need a can of coconut milk, a jalapeno pepper, diced tomatoes, curry seasoning and a big handful of basil leaves. Thai basil would be ideal, but I’m not growing any at the moment, so I used regular Italian basil. If you have coconut oil on hand, this would be a great time to use it for cooking the onion. But olive oil would work just fine.
Cut the onion into medium dice and sweat it and the jalapeno pepper, chopped fine, until soft in the bottom of a heavy pot greased with coconut oil (or extra-virgin olive oil). Add 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Season aggressively with salt to draw out the juices. Cover and cook over moderately-low heat until the eggplant is soft. Add the okra, cut on an angle into 1/2-inch slices, and a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juices (or use fresh tomatoes, peeled). Cover and continue cooking until okra is soft. Stir in coconut milk, basil leaves and 1 tablespoon or more curry powder. Cook until the flavors have melded and the vegetables are just the way you like them. Adjust seasonings.
As for the heat and seasoning in this dish, you could replace the jalapeno pepper with red pepper flakes. You could also replace the curry powder with a red or green Thai curry paste. Personally, I would be anxious to see this dish with the Thai curry paste. We simply didn’t have any on hand. But even without it, the finished stew makes a gorgeous presentation. I ate it just as you see in the photograph, but it could just as easily be served over rice. It seems to call out for a side of fried plantains, I just don’t eat carbs like that any more.
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