Oriental Eggplant

I happen to live with someone who detests eggplant, yet it’s one of my favorite vegetables. I love how it collects the flavors of whatever it is cooked with as well as its texture and meatiness. I tend not to buy it unless I’m home for a solo dinner. But a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t resist picking up two gorgeous looking heirloom eggplants at the farmstand: Clara, creamy white; and Calliope, aubergine-colored with flicks of white stripes. They were smallish and were just the right size to make a skillet of Oriental Eggplant just for me!

I received the cookbook, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, by Sandia Belgrade and Patricia Sweeney-Park from my sister for Christmas in the early 1990s. Mainly a vegetarian cookbook (I was a vegetarian for seven years, breaking only on those rare occasions for bacon!), this book has some of my favorite all-time recipes. It’s a bit on the 70s hippie California side, despite being published in 1991; the lasagna I love is named “Jerry’s Lasagna,” named no doubt for Jerry Garcia. The recipe ends with “Don’t forget the garlic bread, salad, organic red wine, candles, and the Grateful Dead.” Despite it’s odd font, homemade look, and line drawings, I would never part with it.

After making a stir fry with fresh vegetables and quinoa one night for dinner, I took the skillet and started to make the Oriental Eggplant. While I got inspiration from the cookbook I, of course, have adapted the recipe to be my own. I love when the sauce is added, the eggplant becomes silky and smooth, and I have to admit to those who on the fence about eggplant, it does become a bit slithery, but that’s the way I like it! You could avoid that by not cooking the eggplant as much. While I didn’t have any converts that night, I can rest assured that whenever I make this dish I don’t have to worry about sharing!

Oriental Eggplant

2 tsp. oil
2 medium eggplants, cut into strips
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
About a teaspoon of crushed red pepper

2 TBS soy sauce or tamari
2 TBS apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup water
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch

1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and stir for a minute so it doesn’t burn. Add the eggplant and stir until it becomes soft.
2. In a small bowl, add the sauce ingredients together and mix well. When the eggplant is soft, add the sauce and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and stir the eggplant occasionally. When everything is soft and the sauce has boiled down, it’s ready to eat!

Cook’s Notes:
• The original recipe called for ⅓ cup of safflower oil. You could use that amount, but I think that is way more than you need. I always tend to use 2 teaspoon of oil for whatever I am cooking; but using less oil means keeping a watchful eye so the garlic doesn’t burn.
• You can always serve this over rice, but I like it as a side dish.
• This can also be gluten-free, just look for a tamari that doesn’t include wheat.
• I had this heated up for lunch a couple of days later, and find it loses something by sitting; best to eat the night you cook it!