Another meatless recipe for my meat-free month of February – curried eggplant with chickpeas served with spaghetti squash! This dish was inspired by a client request for eggplant, which, admittedly, I don’t cook very often. It’s never been a favorite ingredient of mine, however, I have grown to enjoy it more and more over the years. Eggplant does offer great, meaty texture to a dish, and holds up very well to big bold flavors, so it was a great addition to this recipe which originally started out as an idea for curried chickpea with tomato sauce.
One thing I love about stewed dishes such as this is that you can add a bunch of different flavors and textures and it all combines so well into something hearty, rich and texturally exciting. From the pop of the chickpeas, to the crunch of the onions, to the tenderness of the eggplant, it all works so well together. And you know, I love any recipe where I can add a few handfuls of kale to really bump up the nutritional factor!
Now, about that spaghetti squash. Have you ever cooked spaghetti squash? If you haven’t, it’s worth the effort. The truth is that the curried eggplant and chickpeas will serve great over pasta or rice or a puree of some kind, so you can get creative and serve whatever starch-like side dish you want, but this is a great way to get some squash into your diet. Frankly, it’s also kind of fun to prepare. There is something about shredding the threads of squash into spaghetti-like strands that feels, well, therapeutic! Seriously! Give it a try!
As you can see above, I removed the seeds before cooking, which makes it easier to discern the squash strands after cooking. And then, once the squash is tender, I remove it from the oven and let it cool until I can handle it without scalding my hands. Then, I use a fork to scrape along the sides and the strands just magically seem to come undone from the skin of the squash. Fascinating and oddly calming!
The squash takes some time – about 25 minutes to cook in the oven, but that’s just a waiting game. While that happens, the real star of this show can be made all in one large saute pan right on the stove.
I start by caramelizing onions with fresh ginger and garlic, then I brown the eggplant before stirring in some tomato sauce and coconut milk to simmer everything together with curry powder so the flavors can really bloom. We aren’t talking about a traditionally made, all-day kind of simmering here. We are getting dinner on the table. But even a 10 minute simmer brings about big, bold taste and I love it!
Lastly, at the end, I stir in chickpeas and sliced kale leaves along with freshly chopped mint and parsley. This beautifully delicious and saucy dish can then be scooped right over top a bowl of spaghetti squash “noodles” and dinner is served! Boom! So many flavors, done so simply. Food that makes me happy! I hope it makes you happy, too!
Curried eggplant and chickpeas are stewed together in a quick and easy weeknight supper.
1 Spaghetti Squash
1 cup red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, strained and rinsed
4 cups kale leaves, torn or sliced into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Carefully trim the ends off the spaghetti squash, then stand it upright on one flat edge and cut in half down the center lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, then set cut side down on a sheet pan. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can easily use a fork to scrape the threads from the inside of the squash.
Set a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and heat until starting to become fragrant and onions soften, about 3-5 minutes. Stir often. Add the curry powder and the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients well and cook over medium heat until the eggplant is starting to brown and tenderize, about 6-9 minutes. Continue to stir often.
Add the tomato sauce and coconut milk to the pan and lower heat. Simmer gently to develop flavor for about 5-10 minutes. Stir every so often.
Once the squash is out of the oven, set aside and let cool until it’s easier to handle. Then, scrape the squash by using a fork to gently shred around the inside and along the edges to form the long spaghetti like threads.
To finish the tomato-coconut sauce, stir in the chickpeas, kale, fresh mint and parsley. Season again with salt and pepper to taste, then simmer another 1-2 minutes to wilt the kale. Remove from heat.
Divide the spaghetti squash among the dinner plates and top with the curried eggplant, chickpeas and kale.