My first recipe for eggplant (college days) was eggplant Parmigiana. Like most Americans, perhaps, I always associated eggplant with Italy and so tended to use it in Italian recipes - fried or boiled, added to pasta sauce, etc. There are of course other like ginger or curry eggplant. (Sorry, I don't do curry, which is ironic as I have learned that eggplant originally grew wild in India, then was cultivated in China around 500 AD, and later spread to Africa, and only later Italy.)
Eggplant is a most beautiful vegetable, but may not be the most inspiring taste-wise, I will grant you that. However, its mildness lends it well to complimenting other foods. It is also a very healthful veggie, with lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals, and also phytonutrients that have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Lab animals with high cholesterol given eggplant juice showed a reduction in blood cholesterol, while the walls of their blood vessels relaxed, improving blood flow.
Eggplants are also rich in antioxidents and "nasunin", which is not only a potent free-radical scavenger, but is also an iron chelator. Too much iron in your blood is a bad thing. Green tea and soy beans inhibit iron uptake, by the way, which is believed to be one of the reasons that people in Japan have the world's longest health longevity (years without disabilities or need for therapeutic drugs). In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Bottom line, this vegetable helps the body fight/prevent aging, rheumatism, cancer, and cardiovascular disease so is something very good to include in your diet. Of course the word is "helps", not "cures", but compared to the "atomic cheese doodle" kind of crap we in the industrialized world tend to eat, eggplant is pretty amazing stuff.
After coming to Japan, I was happy to learn that this country is one of the five major eggplant producing nations. Japanese eggplant are long and thin, often curved (like Italian eggplant), rather than, well, egg shaped. K cooks them in a miso sauce, which tastes pretty darn good, though I think the miso flavor kind of overwhelms the mild eggplant a bit much, and they loose something when cooked to the point of being limp. Also, Japanese eggplant, when cut into quarters lengthwise, remind me of those giant worm "graboid" monsters in the movie "Tremors", but K doesn't like me to play with my food anymore than Mother did. Sigh. Women have so little tolerance for imagination at the dinner table.
Part of the humbug with most eggplant recipes is the the amount of preparation - slicing them into little pieces, salting them and laying them up to draw out the moisture, frying, etc., but recently I found a recipe that is really simple to prepare yet very delicious. I modified it to my taste of course. I hope you'll give it a try.
Here's "Steamed Eggplant Pandabonium":
4 Eggplants - any of the purple kinds will do and there are lots of varieties. As Momo showed in an earlier post, I'm growing two varieties in big pots this summer.
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) rice or canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) sesame oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mm) honey
(Please ignore the annoying space that follows which is there because I haven't figured out how to write a table for blogger that doesn't have a space after it.)
To prepare, just take the stalk off, cut into quarters (first in the middle, then lengthwise), and steam on the range or in the microwave for 5 minutes.
Wisk up the other ingredients - really get them well blended - and pour over the eggplant. Et Voilà! That simple. You may feel guilty for the compliments you get. Don't. Just enjoy. Don't worry about all that oil by the way. You will not end up eating it all. Put the sauce in a bowl with a serving spoon, and just use what you need at the time. The rest can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. It's just easier to whip up a larger amount than a tiny one.
*I do not recommend substituting other kinds of vinegar. Chinese and Japanese rice vinegars are much sweeter than what Americans are used to. Whatever else you may change (like using sugar because you're out of honey), please stick with rice vinegar without fail.
You may also enjoy Michael Franks' song "Eggplant" while preparing or eating this dish. I wanted to share it with you within this post as well, but the embed feature is not allowed. So click here to watch/listen: