Elevated Eggplant – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News – Mail Tribune

October 6, 2022
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Two gardening seasons have passed since this column characterized eggplant among the ultimate comfort foods.
This year, I’m sorely in need of comfort amid a lackluster harvest of eggplants, slow to set and size up the scant fruits they did produce. The precious few eggplants I did harvest never seemed to reach their full culinary potential.
There simply haven’t been enough globes for a batch of my son’s favorite eggplant Parmesan. So I enjoyed eggplant, a few slices at a time, after exempting my otherwise averse family. On a few occasions, the rest of the fruit languished too long in fridge, its flesh turned mushy and brown. I sighed over such garden scarcity that ironically saw me tossing one of my favorite foods in the compost.
Then I vowed this past week to use an entire eggplant in an Asian recipe recently gleaned from the newspaper’s wire service. If my partner didn’t care to sample the dish, I’d sauté him some broccoli. It was soon evident, though, that cookbook author Hannah Che’s confidence in “fish-fragrant eggplant” isn’t misplaced.
“If you aren’t a fan of eggplant, it’s because you haven’t had this dish yet,” she writes in “The Vegan Chinese Kitchen.”
Indeed, at the first bite of garlicky, gingery sauce coating tender, oil-enriched eggplant, my partner murmured his appreciation. “This is really good.”
I did take the liberty of augmenting Che’s eggplant with some toasted cashews, which I knew would go a long way toward winning over my partner. Because eggplant inherently absorbs oil while frying, rendering it soft and creamy, some crunch is a welcome contrast. I also considered using roasted peanuts, which I frequently pair with Asian stir-fries and noodle dishes, particularly anything with chile-garlic paste.
That’s why this eggplant with peanut butter is next on my list of recipes to try, requiring fewer steps and less mess than “fish-fragrant eggplant,” which actually contains no fish or fish sauce. Use tahini instead of peanut butter for a dish that pays homage to Middle Eastern flavor profiles.
Forget hummus and avocado on a veggie sandwich. The first meatless stack I ever recall enjoying featured eggplant and roasted red pepper. The combination was a revelation to a college student who didn’t grow up eating eggplant — and considered herself averse to bell peppers. Roasting them, however, makes all the difference.
This sandwich is a perfect vehicle for the basil pesto I’ve been making for the past month (the garden basil just won’t quit!). Pesto is delicious, of course, folded into mayonnaise, and if you have garden peppers still coming on, like I do, this is an ideal way to highlight them. The original recipe calls for arugula in the pesto, an obvious adjustment going into the cool season for garden greens.
Elevate eggplant and roasted red peppers even further in this terrine, a classic French technique that essentially recast veggies as a loaf long before vegetarian and vegan emerged as mainstream dietary ethics. This recipe has cheese and eggs, so it’s not vegan. Even the most conventional appetites would find it delicious.
Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com
‘Fish-Fragrant Eggplant’
For sauce:
1/2 cup unsalted stock of any kind or water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar
1/2 teaspoon potato starch or cornstarch
For eggplant:
1 pound long Chinese or Japanese eggplants (about 3 to 4 small)
Kosher salt, as needed
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chile-bean paste or pickled chile paste
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts kept separate
In a small bowl, whisk all the sauce ingredients until blended. Set aside,
Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 3-inch sections, then slice them into 1/2-inch wedges. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups water and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and whisk until salt dissolves, then submerge eggplant and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and pat wedges dry. (Salting helps relax flesh, reduce any bitterness and prevent it from soaking up excessive oil.)
Heat about 1 1/2 cups oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Coat eggplant lightly in the potato starch or cornstarch. When oil reaches 375 F, fry eggplant in batches, flipping and turning it occasionally to cook evenly, until edges are slightly golden and skin is glossy purple and wrinkled, for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer cooked eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate. (Reserve oil for another use.)
Return wok to stove over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon reserved oil and the chile-bean paste. Stir-fry over low heat until its red oil is released, for about 30 seconds. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites and stir-fry until just aromatic, for about 30 seconds more. Push aromatics up one side of wok and pour sauce mixture in center.
Gently fold fried eggplant into sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes, until eggplant has absorbed flavors and liquid is thickened from starch.
Transfer to a plate, garnish with scallion greens and serve immediately,
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe from “The Vegan Chinese Kitchen” by Hannah Che (Clarkson Potter, $35).
Eggplant With Peanut Butter
1 (1-pound) eggplant
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 slice fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter or sesame-seed paste (tahini)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Peel the eggplant, cut in 1-inch chunks and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet and stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 20 seconds. Add eggplant chunks and stir-fry for another 20 seconds. Blend in the peanut butter, salt and water. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until eggplant is tender. Stir in the sesame oil and serve. May also be served at room temperature.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
Recipe from “Regional Cooking of China” by Maggie Gin.
Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches With Arugula-Walnut Pesto Mayonnaise
1 eggplant sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups arugula, divided
1 cup basil
1/3 cup shelled, unsalted walnuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 thick slices your favorite bread, toasted
1 (8-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the sliced eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle liberally with salt. Allow to sit until oven is done preheating. Wipe salt (and liquid released) off eggplant slices with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway.
While eggplant is cooking, prepare pesto mayonnaise. Combine 1 cup of the arugula, the basil, walnuts and garlic in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined, scraping down sides as needed. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Spoon pesto into a bowl and add the mayonnaise. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble sandwiches, spread a layer of pesto mayonnaise on 4 slices of bread. Divide between each slice the roasted red peppers, remaining 2 cups arugula and roasted eggplant. Top with remaining slices of bread — you can add another layer of pesto mayonnaise to top slice of bread too.
Adapted by Tribune News Service from a recipe by thissavoryvegan.com
Makes 4 servings.
Eggplant Terrine
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3/4 cup or more for drizzling and brushing
2 yellow bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
3 eggplants cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
5 ounces Emmentaler cheese
1 sprig fresh basil, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven broiler. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper (spreading a little butter on inside of loaf pan will help it to stay in place).
Place the bell peppers on a cookie sheet, drizzle with some of the oil and roast under broiler, turning frequently, until charred and blackened all over. Remove from oven, place in a plastic bag and seal top. Do not turn off broiler. Brush the eggplant slices with oil, place in a single layer on baking sheet and broil until golden brown on both sides; this will require a few batches.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
When bell peppers are cool enough to handle, peel, seed and chop their flesh. Make a layer of broiled eggplant slices in prepared pan. Grate 1/2 cup of the Emmentaler and slice remainder. Stir grated Emmentaler, chopped bell peppers and a little of the basil into the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Arrange a layer of Emmentaler slices on top of eggplant and spoon in some egg mixture. Continue making alternate layers until all ingredients are used, ending with egg mixture.
Place loaf pan in a roasting pan, add boiling water to come about halfway up sides and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, put the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in a small pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
Remove terrine from oven, unmold onto a warm serving dish, discarding parchment paper, and serve with tomato sauce.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipe from “The Silver Spoon.”
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