July 19, 2024
Renowned chef, author Yotam Ottolenghi swings by Santa Rosa on book tour

Reserving the oil, use a spoon to transfer the onion, garlic, and chile (discarding the stem; don’t worry if you scoop up some of the spices and oil) into the bowl of a small food processor and blitz until smooth. Return the blitzed onion mixture to the saucepan, along with the mushroom halves, and place on medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, for all the flavors to come together.

For the mash: While the mushrooms are cooking, put the beans into a food processor along with the lemon juice, olive oil, water and salt. Blitz until completely smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring, until warmed through.

Divide the mash among four plates. Top with four mushroom halves per plate and spoon in a generous amount of the reserved oil and its accompanying aromatics (you won’t need all of it, though as noted above). Serve at once.

Only two ingredients — lemon and milk — are what it takes to make paneer at home. It’s an experiment worth trying (it certainly feels like conducting a chemistry experiment), both for a sense of achievement and for unrivaled freshness. Yotam has published a recipe for it in the Guardian newspaper, but many others are also available online. If you buy your paneer — which makes the most satisfying filling for the grilled eggplants here, as it soaks up the coconut sauce — try to find a soft variety, which has a texture like compressed ricotta. Other varieties, which are harder and slightly rubbery, are more suitable for making vegetarian tikka kebabs, but they will also do if that’s what you’ve got. For a vegan option, use extra-firm tofu. Try to get a good-quality, chunky Indian mango pickle for this. Both the eggplant slices and the lentil sauce can be prepared the day before, if you want to get ahead. In fact, you can make the whole dish a day ahead, up until before it goes into the oven, then chill in the fridge and just bring to room temperature before warming up.

Stuffed Eggplant in Curry and Coconut Dal

Serves 4 as a main

3 large eggplants, stems removed, each eggplant cut lengthwise into 6-inch by ¼-inch thick slices (6 cups)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Table salt and black pepper

For coconut dal:

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (1⅔ cups)

1½ ounces fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 red chiles, finely chopped

30 fresh curry leaves (optional)

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons medium curry powder

2 teaspoons tomato paste

½ cup dried red lentils

1 can (13½ ounce) full-fat coconut milk

2½ cups water

¾ teaspoon table salt

8 ounces paneer (or extra-firm tofu), roughly grated

2 limes: finely zested to get 1 teaspoon, then juiced to get 2 tablespoon

1½ ounces hot mango pickle, roughly chopped, plus more to serve

¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more to serve

Table salt

3½ ounces large (not baby) spinach leaves, stems removed (2 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplants with the olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until softened and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

For the dal: Put the olive oil into a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for 8 minutes, until golden. Add the ginger, half the chile, and half the curry leaves (if using) and cook for 2 minutes, then add all the spices, tomato paste, and lentils. Stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour into a 7-inch by 11-inch inch baking dish and set aside.

In a small bowl, toss together the paneer, lime zest, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, the mango pickle, cilantro and ⅛ teaspoon salt.

Place one spinach leaf on top of each slice of eggplant. Put a heaping 1 teaspoon of the paneer mixture in the middle, then roll up the eggplant, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the filling is encased. Put the eggplant roll seam-side down in the lentil sauce and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, spinach, and paneer. You should end up with about eighteen rolls, all sitting snugly in the sauce. Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged, and bake for 15–20 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes.