Saturday, August 14, 2010

Asian noodles with eggplant

I have been buying eggplant regularly these last few weeks (maybe because it's purple and I have a weakness for purple vegetables), but I don't really have a go-to eggplant recipe. Unlike many other vegetables, eggplant isn't that good cooked and eaten plain, so it requires some thought. The best eggplant dishes I've made in the past are either appetizers, or time-consuming main dishes - not really suitable for a weeknight dinner, which is what I'm looking for.

This recipe came from Gourmet Today (surprise, surprise...clearly I need to make an effort to explore different cookbooks next week). The eggplant is broiled with a soy sauce and mirin glaze, and then tossed with spicy noodles. It's a tasty all-in-one dinner dish, and I think some pan-fried tofu would be a nice addition for next time.

Asian noodles with eggplant
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Serves 4, generously

Note: The recipe calls for soba noodles, but I used udon because I like it better - if you decide to substitute a different kind of Asian noodle, you might want to just estimate the right amount for the number of people you're serving, rather than going by weight.

2 1/2 pounds Asian eggplants, halved crosswise and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (I cut them into thirds crosswise)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 - 1 1/2 tsp Asian chile sauce with garlic, or 1 - 1 1/2 tsp chile sauce (such as Sriracha) plus 1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
5 scallions, thinly sliced (I didn't use them)
3/4 pound soba noodles (I used udon noodles)
3 tbs chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat broiler and line two cookie sheets or baking pans with foil. Lightly oil the foil and arrange eggplant slices on the pans. Stir together 1/4 cup mirin, 2 tbs soy sauce, and 2 tbs sesame oil and brush mixture over eggplant slices. Broil one pan for about 5 minutes, or until eggplant is browned. Rotate the pan if necessary to achieve even cooking, and watch out for burning. Turn eggplant slices over, brush with the mirin mixture, and broil until browned and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Repeat with other pan.

Stir together water, cornstarch, chile paste, and remaining 6 tbs each soy sauce and mirin. Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add ginger, half of scallions, and garlic if you are using it. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add cornstarch mixture and simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and cover sauce.

Meanwhile cook noodles in boiling (unsalted) water and drain. If you are using soba noodles (not necessary for udon), rinse well under cold water and then drain again. If you want to serve them warm, you can reheat them by rinsing with very hot water right before tossing with the sauce.

Cut eggplant slices crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Toss with sauce, noodles, remaining scallions and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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