Category Archives: eggplant

Tofu Eggplant Stir Fry

tofu stir fry

Another weeknight, another stir fry. Sam Sifton of NYTimes Cooking recently re-pointed out his list of Asian essentials to make weeknight meals more easily delicious, and I am in utter agreement. Buying sesame oil, miso, and rice vinegar is well worth the initial investment.

There are a few important components of a stir fry—although if you’re in a hurry and neglect one or the other, sometimes good quick food is better than the best food (not a philosophy I generally subscribe to, but no one likes being hangry, and the beauty of stir fries is that they can still be damn good)—how you chop the ingredients, the order you put everything in the pan, and the amount of seasoning.

1. Chop everything so it’s all the same size. I tend to like long rectangular pieces.
2. Cook on high or medium high (and keep watching and stirring!), but make sure to put in the harder vegetables, and tofu, in the pan first. That way they can cook a bit before the flash-cooked ingredients, like green beans.
3. Season well! Add a variety of sauces, taste as you go, keep adding, let it cook down a bit, taste more, try something else… have fun!

I’m sure this would be better in a wok, but I don’t have one so I shall continue to praise my lovely cast iron.

An update re: life on Mars (thanks, Modern Farmer): apparently we should be able to grow crops there! But they’ll be missing some key nutrients that we may have to import, and could be lethal if we don’t rinse the soil. Wash your dirt and save your poop, kids. 

In keeping with the end of eggplant season, this particular stir fry (and another similar one the next week) made the vegetable a star, with a few chunks of crispy tofu and other veggies thrown in too. Add whatever veggies you want. I’ve been enjoying sweet potatoes recently, and onions of course, and something green like broccoli or beans or kale.

Tofu eggplant stir fry
8 oz tofu (or whatever you'll eat)
1/2 large eggplant, or 1-2 smaller ones
Sweet potatoes, or carrots
1/2 onion, or more if you like onion
Hot peppers or red pepper flakes, if you feel like it
Green beans, or other green vegetables
Garlic
Ginger
Vegetable oil
Sauces! Sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, maybe miso
Scallions, parsley, cilantro if you want

Start by chopping all the ingredients, at least roughly the same size (carrots I cut in half lengthwise, then in slivers, so you get thin half-moons that will cook quickly). Peel the ginger and mince, along with the garlic (large pieces are fine). If you have time to marinate the tofu in soy sauce, do so.

Heat up oil in the pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add tofu and a little soy sauce and fry for a few minutes on each side until slightly golden, flipping around a few times. Add the eggplant and sweet potatoes or carrots and cook for a few minutes, stirring often (you stir and it fries). At this point, start putting in a few other sauces, tasting, and adjusting. If you use miso, dissolve it in soy sauce or something else first, or you’ll get little potent chunks. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic and cook a little more, then the beans (I like my beans remaining nice and crisp). Taste and make final adjustments, then turn off the heat and add the scallions and any other last additions.

Serve over rice. Or become full picking right from the pan.

bean tofu stir fry

P.S. You can grow fruit on tiny tiny (bonsai) trees! Sounds like my dream.

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Italian Eggplant Salad

eggplant salad

I have been fixated on eggplant of late. It doesn’t help that my roommate is also obsessed, so I’ve been buying it more frequently than I would otherwise. I used to not even like it at all—the texture, mostly—but like many childhood aversions, I am quite over it these days.

Over the moon about it, actually (had to throw in a moon pun after yesterday’s activity). Although not everyone is, since it is one of the less nutritious of the vegetables. I suppose on top of an actual salad (well, I made it on a kale salad, so it’s full of good kale nourishment) makes it a double enemy for those seeking nutrition and fooling themselves by eating mostly water. However, it’s far better than chicken nuggets, or whatever else one might be eating, so I am quite content. Plus, eggplant. Delicious.

This is one version of eggplant salad. You could also prepare it similarly but top with an Asian dressing (say, miso, ginger, and rice vinegar, or fish sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and sesame oil) instead of balsamic, basil, and goat cheese. Something to try for next time (better make it quick, eggplant is on its way out).

How long before we can grow food on Mars, now that we’re almost certain there’s water there? Sooner might be better than later—we are becoming dangerously war-torn here on Earth, to the point where seeds had to be extracted from Norway’s seed vault for the first time, due to the Syrian war (yikes), but, we should probably figure out our own problems before messing with another planet.

Maybe the aliens will befriend us if we feed them eggplant.

Italian Eggplant Salad
2 Italian eggplants
Kale
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Basil, or pesto
Goat cheese, in olive oil if you can swing it (Appleton Creamery is the best)

Cut the eggplant in half, prick vigorously with a fork (don’t stab yourself), and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Broil for 20 or so minutes, until the skin is blistered and the inside is very soft—an entered fork should meet no resistance. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, wash and chop up the kale. Drizzle with olive oil, then massage with your hands until it softens, achieving a salad consistency.

Take the peel off the eggplant and discard. Separate out the inside and break it apart into chunks with a fork.

Place the kale on a large platter, and top with eggplant, then basil. Drizzle with balsamic, then crumble goat cheese and olive oil on top. Peppercorns (in my goat cheese) are a good plus too, for aesthetic and flavor piquancy.

I made this for a potluck and was having difficulty not stuffing my face before leaving. Easy to eat an abundance.

eggplant salad

It looks pretty, and I love taking pictures of my food. Just don’t forget to enjoy the company, place, and time of your food as well (a beautiful article, written by a college friend of mine).

Ratatouille

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Like many others (I think), I was rather deeply inspired by the movie Ratatouille. And odd as it may seem, I became infected with a desire to recreate the masterpiece of a cartoon rat.

I had no previous experience with ratatouille, which in its most basic form is a simple country conglomeration of vegetables. So my vision had something to do with fancy restaurant food delicately dressed on white plates and gobbled up by critics.

Disney's Ratatouille's Ratatouille
Image from Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille

Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen (and other sites) had already followed up on this impulse.

I did change a few things though. First of all, since it’s tomato season, I’m not that into using canned tomatoes or sauce or paste or any of that. I have real awesome tomatoes, I want to use them. So I made up a little sauce and baked it in the pan first, then followed the recipe. I also added cheese on top, because nom.

Furthermore, I didn’t have any red peppers. So much for that dash of color.

One of the useful tricks used in this recipe (Mark Bittman’s, anyway) that should also be repurposed for many others is salting eggplant. All you need to do it cut it ahead of time, sprinkle some salt on it and let it sit for a little while. This gets rid of some of the juice and makes a phenomenal difference in texture. Although perhaps if I had a mandolin it wouldn’t matter as much for this particular dish.

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Obviously I couldn’t cut them as thin as a mandolin can. Although I admit (excuses…) that I was also in a bit of a hurry with these, because really one can do wonders with a knife.

Ratatouille
1 really fat tomato or a few smaller ones (the sauce kind)
1/2 onion
Garlic (to taste)
Olive oil
1 small eggplant
1 small zucchini
Thyme
Salt, pepper
Parmesan, or similar cheese

Turn oven to about 375ºF. Chop up the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and put in baking dish. Roast in the oven for at least 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Thinly slice the eggplant, spread out and sprinkle with salt. Let sit. Thinly slice the zucchini (and red peppers if you have them). You can also throw in a different summer squash as well as the zucchini if you like. Grate the cheese.

When the tomatoes are nice and saucy, layer the zucchini and eggplant slices together in the dish (see above; you can also do it in a circle depending on the shape of your pan). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Bake for around 45 minutes (it will start smelling fantastic), then top with cheese and put back in for another 15 or so. Edges should be crispy and veggies will be cooked but definitely not soggy.

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Serve hot. I had mine with beans and quinoa because they needed using up; but I think this would go with many things, either as a side or a feature.

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And yes, that is Settlers of Catan in the background.