One of the things I love most about summer is eggplants. This week’s CSA brought a variety that I had never tasted before, i.e. “fairy tale” eggplants. Besides the dreamy name, they come with a lovely light-purple skin which is thinner and less bitter than that of regular Italian eggplants.
Italian culinary tradition abounds with eggplant-based recipes, but they almost always involve frying and/or turning on the oven. Which did not really look appealing to me, in the midst of the heatwave that has taken over Washington DC during the last week. So I set off to find an alternative, and I found a great one in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More cookbook.
The book is a gold mine of vegetarian cooking, and eggplants are one of Ottolenghi’s staples, on which he performs innumerable variations (both in this book and in all his others). The variation I settled on is a steamed eggplant, tossed into a soy-sauce based marinade with an Asian flare, and pairs perfectly with steamed or boiled rice.
Compared to the original I made few modifications (omitted green onions because I did not have any at hand and added a hint of paprika, chives and black pepper). I have to admit my inner Italian was initially skeptical at the idea of steamed eggplants, but this recipe completely changed my mind. Steaming yields a tender and very moist flesh that perfectly absorbs the marinate and ends up melting in you mouth. It actually feels a bit like a fried eggplant, but without any of its greasiness.
So overall, I really loved the result. What originated as a quest for a way to avoid using the oven turned out to be one of the best eggplant recipe that I have ever tasted. I am sure I will go back to this quite often (not only during the heatwave)!
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More
Ingredients (for 2)
- 1 medium eggplant, topped and peeled (if using fairy tale eggplant, you may need to use more than because they are usually quite small)
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 cup white rice, boiled
- freshly crushed black pepper, a pinch of paprika and chives to finish
For the dressing:
- 1 1/4 tsp mirin
- 1/4 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 1/4 tsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1/2 clove garlic, minced
Fill a large pot (with a lid) with water to a quarter of the way up the sides and bring to a boil. Place the eggplant in the steamer (I used a bamboo steamer) or in a colander hovering over the water, making sure the water does not touch the steamer (you don’t want the eggplant to be boiled). Cover tightly using the lid and let steam for 30 minutes, turning the eggplant once.
When the eggplant is cooked (it should feel very soft and moist to the touch), remove the steamer from the pot and leave the eggplant to cool and drain inside the steamer. When the eggplant is cool, shred the flesh by hand into long and thin stripes. You can also remove part of the seeds, if you don’t like the taste of them. Continue to drain the stripes for an additional 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. Mix together the mirin, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and sesame seeds. Stir in the ginger and garlic and set aide. Once the eggplant is completely cooled and drained, put it in a small bowl and toss it with the marinate. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, before serving over the cooked white rice. To finish, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, paprika and chives.