Thursday, August 18, 2011

Japanese Eggplant in the Menu Plan

For anyone who may be concerned about my lack of vegetable mentions, please be assured I do include them in the daily fare.  We are fortunate to live near some of the greatest and most bargain-filled outdoor markets in San Francisco, so don't always have to pay supermarket prices for veggies and fruit. There's literally no excuse not to have something on hand when it's all laying out there, ready to be gotten.

Even when money is tight.....which as we all know, it. is.

But I have lived in places where the only thing we had to depend on was the local grocery...that's when juggling the food dollar really gets complicated.  My main idea there is to make a list of essentials and get them first, then it's all pricing and menu planning.

Speaking of menu planning, it's always good to change things up if you can.  Of course, there are those who like a schedule....Meatloaf Monday, Ratatouille Thursday....hey! What ever beats your egg!  But if you can, give the old palate a new sensation once in a while!  Surprise the family! Astound your friends and still come in within the budget.

Eggplant can be a wonderful way to do that.  Japanese eggplant is long like a zucchini but smooth and shaded a pale, beautiful purple....gradient shading on a lot of  them from pale, almost while, through lilac into purple at the tip.  This version has a subtle sweetness to it, very tender.  Cut it in thick, diagonal  rounds and add to a wok that's already had garlic, onion,coarse chopped celery, green peppers and what ever else strikes your fancy.

For me that would include some spicy small red chillies, bits of stir-fried tofu (firm packed survives best, but still make sure to drain it well before cooking!) and even a tablespoon or two of cooked black beans.   Of course I'd top it off with a last minute addition of mushrooms-these I like almost raw- and a lightly thickened sauce made with soy sauce, a bit of dried sherry and some orange or lemon juice - combination to measure about 1/2 cup to about 1 or 11/2 tablespoon (at most) of cornstarch. Put all this into a small sauce pan and whisk or stir.  It'll start to bubble.  Turn the heat down and continue to stir. When it's slightly thickened, pour over the wokking food and toss.

Feel free to add a few other spices if you wish, but taste-always taste before you do, then add them gradually.
The sauce should help thicken any residual liquids in the wok.
Top the whole thing with chopped green onion and some toasted sesame seeds if you like and serve over rice.

Rules on Rice:
It's a 2 to 1 ratio there.  2 parts water to 1 part rice every time.    Heat the pan with some butter, stir in uncooked rice and stir around 'til the butter is melted a the rice is coated then add the water and cover.  Bring to a boil, lower flame to simmer and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes then turn it off, remove from the heat and don't open it for five minutes.  When you do, fluff it with a fork and it's done.

That's only one recipe for one type of Eggplant....and there are so many more to explore!
Feel free to write and let me know what you think, share your recipes and your passion for cooking and living....because that's what it's really all about!