I have a confession to make: eggplant was my Achilles heel. My Everest. My other thing that means difficult challenge. Since what my former roommate and I call the "Eggplant Incident of 2005" I have been fearful of cooking this gorgeous flavorful veggie. I tried grilling, baking, casserole, all to no avail. I would eat eggplant at restaurants, in the homes of friend's, and silently bear my shame. But today, I have conquered the Solanum Melongena. And it. Was. Delicious.
The impetus for conquering my fear came from my dear friend Beckham, he like me is a food lover and thanks to his lovely wife, a master of vegetarian delights. He sent me a text last week that would forever change my eggplant-cowering life, "Last night's dinner: asian-y twice baked eggplant and roasted bok choy." This text lead to a gchat exchange that piqued by curiosity. Beckham is a natural cook: his paraphrased food philosophy being "take things that taste good, and apply heat and seasoning." I generally need a safety net, ie recipe, in the kitchen, but decided to try his style and wing it based on an idea, and some basic Beckham tips. Equipped with his instruction and inspiration, I set out to conquer my culinary albatross. Eggplant, consider yourself vanquished.
Twice-baked Asian Style Eggplant with Arugula and Edamame Salad
Serves 1 (with leftovers for later. Yum)
2 Japanese eggplant
2 large pieces of fresh ginger - peeled and finely diced
peanut butter (organic)
dark soy sauce
aji-mirin (sweet cooking rice seasoning)
Chinese five spice
edamame - cooked and shelled
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the eggplant in half length-wise and brush with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and paper and bake for about 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender. While the eggplant is baking, combine the next eight ingredients in a bowl and reserve. For quantities, just eyeball it and remember: non-recipe cooking is liberating and makes you feel like a super hero. Just trust me. (The only reason I ended up using peanut butter was because I started out with too much soy and it was a wonderful correction. If you haven't used these ingredients before, use a light hand with the sriracha, aji-mirin and sesame oil, and an abundant amount of soy.)
Scoop out the delicious eggplant meat and combine with all other ingredients. (Accidentally cut through 3 of the 4 eggplant skins and don't sweat it.) Place the eggplant mixture back in the eggplant skins and bake until warmed through, about 10 more minutes.
While this is baking plate a generous portion of arugula with the edamame and just a splash of ginger dressing. Top the salad with two eggplant halves and enjoy.
Optional: Get so excited that you call your friend who inspired the dish when you are only halfway through eating.