“No other vegetable is so content to surrender itself to your will,” Ruth Reichl wrote of eggplant in her 2015 cookbook, “My Kitchen Year.” But if you’re skeptical, here’s a quick way to gain some confidence: Start with her easy eggplant salad, which I’ve made so many times since I first read about it that I’ve lost track.
Pierce the aubergine with a fork, then sear it straight on the flame of a gas stove, or under the grill, until the skin is charred and the flesh is tender – don’t baby it now, let it smolder! Be patient – eggplant is firm and spongy when undercooked, but give it a little more time and it will shift to soft, luxurious and creamy.
Peel the burnt skin and mash the tender aubergine flesh in a bowl. In Ruth’s recipe, she adds fish sauce (you can also use a vegetarian fish sauce), lime juice, a pinch of sugar, garlic, and chili, and when it cools, she tops it with spices. But this technique of flame-flaming the whole eggplant and then skinning it is a great way to start any number of dishes.
Try seasoning with sesame oil, rice vinegar, raw chilies, and coriander. Or chopped tomatoes, red wine vinegar, capers, garlic and parsley. Add tahini, lemon juice and zest and garlic. Once you can confidently sear an entire eggplant, you can definitely sauté, broil, or even steam it.
Hetty McKinnon’s new vegan version of dan dan noodles is delicious, with eggplant sprinkled with Sichuan pepper for the usual meaty topping. To make it, sauté eggplant pieces with a little oil and soy sauce and cover the pan, stirring every minute to get even tenderness and color. I made it Monday and loved the dish so much, that if the eggplant is not in season, I make it again with mushrooms, frozen spinach, fresh bok choy, shredded cabbage or just a big pile of sliced raw cucumbers.
This is one of those irresistible Eric Kim dishes that I bring up here quite often because, well, it’s just that good! Eric frys scallions to make the garnish, as well as the deeply flavored scallion oil to stir-fry the eggplant. That oil is key, but so is the final step of glazing the eggplant with a little spiced gochujang that sticks to each piece and caramelizes in the hot pan. Tip: Pair cold leftovers the next day with a rich, buttery cracker for a no-nonsense cocktail snack reminiscent of smoked oysters on crackers.
In David Tanis’s recipe for a Turkish-style eggplant salad, char the whole vegetable over charcoal, on a gas flame, or under a grill and peel off the burnt skin. Simply add garlic, lemon, yogurt and mint to the warm, coarsely chopped aubergine, along with a drizzle of olive oil. It’s perfect with warm pita bread and raw vegetables. Note: Pomegranate molasses, made from reducing the sour juice, is a great addition, but it’s fine to skip it and make up for it with more lemon juice instead.
You can peel and chop a large amount of fresh tomatoes to make David Tanis’s pasta alla Norma – a great use for all the lumpy, bruised tomatoes on sale you sometimes find on the market – but good quality canned tomatoes will work too. good . And here’s a great hack if you’re not in the mood to portion and bake: Cut the eggplant into cubes, mix with oil and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes before adding it back to the sauce. .
Round, baby eggplants, which you can often find in South Asian supermarkets, fit neatly in your hand. They’re the perfect shape for this Gujarati recipe from Niven Patel, where you split the vegetable crosswise and pull it apart like a flour, so you can fill it with a spicy mash of peanuts spiced with garlic, ginger and chilies. Once filled, steam the eggplants together in a little water until soft, but still completely intact – an extremely simple yet rewarding technique.
one more thing
I love buying baby Indian eggplants, as well as tall, slender varieties of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean eggplants, in part because so many of them are thin-skinned, have a lower water content, and are grown locally where I shop. Regardless of the variety you’re looking for, try to pick the firm, heavy eggplant that has tight, shiny skin.
Thanks for reading The Veggie, see you next week!
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