Every summer we make a weekend trip up the Pacific coast to visit our stunningly beautiful sister city to the North, Vancouver. And always, the highlight of this annual pilgrimage is dinner at one of our favorite restaurants of all time, Vij’s.
There is a reason The New York Times calls Vij’s, “Dynamic Indian cuisine unmatched by anything tried before, even in London’s Michelin-starred Indian restaurants. ” There really is no other Indian restaurant that I have been to that comes even close to the exceptional dishes that are produced and served in this one; where customers line up well before the doors open for a crack at experiencing the warm hospitality of the chef-proprieter along with brilliantly executed and innovative dishes such as grilled coconut kale, and jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin curry.
Vikram Vij is the master of “turning up the volume” on traditional Indian dishes and, in doing so, successfully moving this cuisine across oceans and into the contemporary, modern American palate, a sort of Nouveau Indian if you will.
And while we do not have the opportunity to travel to Vancouver in the cold winter months, at home we recreate these memories with his cookbook.
In this particular recipe he elevates the classic North Indian baingan bharta (a fire-roasted eggplant curry) with the addition of sweet and creamy butternut squash,… the end result is a curry that is exceptionally rich in texture, with a depth of flavor unlike any we have tasted before… So, please join us, and together, let’s go on this culinary journey….
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
3 medium eggplants, total weight 3 1/2 lbs
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash
8 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 medium-large onions, in 1 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 lbs)
3 large ripened tomatoes, in 1 1/2-inch dice (about 1 lb)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 bunch green onions (5 or 6 stalks), cut in 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped cilantro
This recipe has lots of onions in it, and since they are chopped in large pieces, it’s difficult to measure them in cups. So don’t worry about being precise with the weights. We want the onions to be browned on the outside and soft on the inside, so we sauté then on high heat. The tomatoes are also chopped in large pieces, so the same goes for measuring them.
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.
Wash and peel skins off the eggplant and butternut squash.
Cut eggplant into 1 inch pieces and place in 9×12 inch baking dish. Add 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1/2 tablespoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and toss well. Cover the dish with foil.
Next, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 inch pieces and place in another 9×12 inch baking dish. Add 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1/2 tablespoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and toss well. Cover the dish with foil.
Roast the eggplant and squash side by side for 45 minutes in the oven. Remove, uncover and allow to cool slightly.
Next, mash each vegetable with a potato masher into large chunks.
While the eggplant and squash are roasting in the oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy frying pan on medium high heat for 1 minute. Sprinkle in the asafoetida and cook for 20 seconds, or just until color slightly darkens. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Stir in the onions and sauté until brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the tomatoes. Add turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, black pepper, jalapeño pepper and the remaining salt. Cook this masala for 10 minutes. If the eggplant and squash are still cooking, remove the masala from the heat and set aside.
Stir the eggplant and squash into the masala. Turn the heat on medium and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the green onions and heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not overcook the green onions. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Serve this curry with traditional chapattis or Split Chickpea and Lentil Parathas (recipe on Galakitchen), rice , a slice of lemon, and any garnishes you desire.
Recipe adopted from “Elegant and Inspired, Vij’s Indian Cuisine” Cookbook by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala