Hmm, what to do with all that eggplant? Every summer we plant them in the garden, and then we get a ton of ’em. Both the big globe eggplants and the slender Japanese variety. So now what? Well, we certainly grill them and occasionally make the effort to fry the eggplant, but after a while we look for new recipes to explore, particularly for our Japanese eggplant.
So when we found this recipe from Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and her excellent cookbook Japanese Farm Food, we had to give it a try. And it is a simple and flavorful recipe with sweet eggplant, nutty sesame and umami-rich miso. Yum. But there is just one little issue. Um…it doesn’t look all that good.
And when you have a photo-heavy food blog, one is loath to post stuff that looks a bit
gross “meh”. But that said, this is a great way to serve eggplant and it is delicious. The sesame and miso paste also keeps in the fridge (it also works with thinly sliced cucumber) so you can get a few meals out of it.
There are only a few tricks to this recipe. Firstly, you do need some sort of mortar and pestle to make the paste (but you really need one anyway). Secondly, you can steam the eggplant in a steamer, but a microwave works just a well and saves some time. We use the microwave (one of the rare times we actually “cook” with it) but if you prefer a steamer setup, have at it.
Otherwise, we suggest you remind yourself that beauty is only skin deep and give this dish a try. Japanese eggplant is a real summer treat, and this recipes does it justice…well, it does the flavor justice.
Japanese Eggplant With Miso And Sesame:
(Adapted from Nancy Singleton Hachisu)
Notes Before You Start:
- You can find miso paste in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Brown rice miso is preferred for this recipe, but white or red miso will work.
What You Get: A tasty, but ugly, eggplant dish.
What You Need: A mortar and pestle, no other special equipment required.
How Long? 15-20 minutes. Anytime dish when eggplant is in season.
- 2-3 pounds Japanese eggplant (4-6 medium, 6-8 small)
- 4 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons brown rice miso
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- Soy sauce, optional
- Parsley or shiso, for garnish
- Cut the ends from the eggplant and peel in alternating 1/2 inch strips. Tightly wrap each eggplant in plastic wrap.
- Cook the eggplant in the microwave (or a steamer) until the flesh yields, about 3 minutes in the microwave (10 minutes in a steamer). Remove the eggplant from the microwave and let steam in the plastic wrap for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat in a dry frying pan until they smell nutty and start to pop. Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle until most of the seeds have broken down and are almost pastelike. Add the miso and rice vinegar and blend until creamy.
- Remove the eggplant from the plastic wrap, cut each in half lengthwise and then slice, on the bias, into 1-2 inch pieces.
- Add the eggplant to a large salad bowl and add about half of the miso paste. Toss gently to coat. Add more paste and/or season with salt and soy sauce to taste. Garnish with parsley or fresh herbs, serve.