Eggplant Caviar (version XIX)

3 large eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Madras-style curry powder
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup basil chiffonade (about 4 leaves)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and brush them with the olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until very soft. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and place it in a sieve lined with a double thickness of slightly dampened cheesecloth. Drain over a bowl for 1 hour. Bring the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze as much of the remaining moisture as possible from the pulp. In a food processor, puree the eggplant pulp until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, stir to mix, and remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes and then fold it into the pureed eggplant. Add the salt and pepper just before serving. (The puree can be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

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