Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

servingBraised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up long Asian eggplants, fresh basil and green onions (scallions) from the farmer’s market. I added red bell peppers for color and Shiitake mushrooms for their wonderful texture and unami flavor. You can use fresh Shiitakes  or soak dried ones in warm water for a more toothsome feel. I’ve also made this successfully with large common (button) mushrooms.

I added a chicken breast for more protein. If you have leftover roasted breast you can chop it in bite sized pieces and add it in with the basil.

Vegetarians and vegans can omit the chicken (or swap it for tofu) and use vegetable broth.

I only add a teaspoon of Sriracha because I can’t handle much heat, but feel free to amp it up, adding it at the end to taste.

I got inspiration for my sauce from Martin Yan’s recipe http://www.yancancook.com/recipes/Spicy-Spicy/selected.php?CHOICE=eggplant_w_garlic_sauce

If you don’t have a wok, you can use a Dutch oven. This is even better the next day, when the basil has a chance to permeate the dish.

Be sure to do all the chopping and sauces prep before you start to cook so you’re not all stressed out while you’re cooking!

Serves 4

ingredients

Ingredients

2 Tb canola oil for frying

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

1 pound Asian eggplants (long skinny ones)

5 large Shiitake mushrooms or common mushrooms

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

2″ piece of fresh ginger to make 1 Tb grated ginger

5- 6 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb grated garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellw onion to make 2 Tb if you don’t have green onions.

1/2 bunch fresh Thai or regular basil to make 1 1/2 cups basil leaves

1 can water chestnuts

Sauce:

3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup )

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (add more for more heat)

Thickener:

4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Prep:

shitakeIf using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water for 30 minutes, then rinse

Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms and chop into bite-sized pieces. If using common mushrooms, trim woody ends from stems, then quarter or cut in sixths.

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and grate garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Chop eggplant at angles into uneven bite-sized pieces. This will prevent it from sticking to the pan.

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise, Sliver the green parts and reserve for garnish.

Rinse and chop water chestnuts

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 cup of leaves

Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl

Directions:

stir frying before sauce addedHeat wok and add oil. Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers. Add chopped vegetables and water chestnuts and stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Mix in ginger, garlic, and sauce with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. Heat to simmering, then lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that vegetables are submerged.

cooking with basilStir in the basil leaves and continue simmering covered for another 3 minutes until eggplant is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Stir in the thickener and bring sauce to a boil until it thickens

Serve over brown rice or on its own. Garnish with a few basil leaves and green onions.

ingredients in sun

Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

Marinated Eggplant

marinated eggplant dishThis delicious Italian-style eggplant is marinated in olive oil, Meyer lemon and a touch of balsamic, with garlic and oregano. It makes an excellent side-dish for Italian food.

Make the dish a day before serving and marinate overnight in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

eggplants3 medium or 4 small globe eggplants

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 leek

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb garlic infused olive oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

12-oz jar Italian-style roasted red bell peppers

1 cloves garlic, minced fine

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp dried oregano

2 slices Meyer lemon (from blossom end)

Finely grated peel of Meyer lemon

Juice of Meyer lemon

chopped eggplant with leeksCut the eggplants at different angles into 2 inches pieces. Each piece should have skin on it. Put them on a rack above a rimmed baking pan, such as a jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes. You will see it sweat. This improves the texture of the eggplant and is supposed to make it less bitter.

While eggplant is sweating, heat the oven to 350º F. Cut the white part of the leek length-wise and then into 1 ” pieces. Soak in a salad-spinner, then rise thoroughly. Spin until dry. Grease a roasting pan with 2 TB garlic infused olive oil and add leeks.

After eggplant sweats for 30 minutes, briefly rinse the pieces in the basket of the salad spinner, then spin, and pat dry with a paper towel. Add to the leeks in the roasting pan. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and toss so that all the eggplant is coated with oil. Bake for 25 minutes at 350º F. Turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven until it is cool, about an hour. The eggplant and leeks should be very tender. Transfer to a deep casserole dish. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Cut two thin slices of lemon from the blossom end (opposite the stem end), then cut each in half and set aside. Finely grate the peel of the rest of the lemon, then juice it. Add peel and juice to the eggplant.

Pour the jar of roasted peppers into the eggplant, then fish out the peppers and slice them in half cross-wise, then into strips length-wise and stir into eggplant. Place the lemon slices on top.

Let the eggplant sit at room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for about 24 hours, then let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan – Aubergine Parmigiana

???????????????????????????????Our Roman airbnb houseguest, Cinzia, kindly demonstrated her traditional Italian version of Eggplant Parmesan, called Aubergine Parmigiana in Italian. I enjoyed making it with her and it was delicious, but a bit heavy due to the fact that she deep-fried the eggplant. I lightened her recipe by baking the eggplant slices with olive oil spray instead.

I use Cinzia’s recipe for Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce, which she made for this Aubergine Parmigiana. It makes about a cup of sauce.

DSC03129                                                                                     Cinzia

Serves 4:

???????????????????????????????Ingredients: (We bought the meat from Genova Deli in Oakland)

1 large globe eggplant

kosher salt

olive oil spray

1 tsp olive oil

2 slices of Mortadella salami. (it looks like bologna, but is much better)

5 slices of Salami Milano

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large ball (4 oz) of fresh mozzarella cheese

???????????????????????????????Cut ends off eggplant and peel it.

???????????????????????????????Use a large knife to slice eggplant thinly: about 1/2 inch thick.

???????????????????????????????Place slices in a colander or salad spinner basket and sprinkle with kosher salt. Layer more slices on top, sprinkling with more salt. Let sit while you make the sauce and grate the cheese, etc, for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw the bitterness from the eggplant and drops of moisture will appear on the surface.

???????????????????????????????Rinse the salt off of the eggplant and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray a couple of baking sheets with olive oil spray. Cut the larger eggplant slices in half. Place the eggplant slices on the sheet. Spray them with olive oil spray , then turn and spray the other side.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until soft, but not dried out.

Assembly:

???????????????????????????????Spray sides and bottom of a flat casserole pan with olive oil spray, then pour about 1 tsp of oil  on the bottom, add a bit of the tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom.

DSC03205Place about 1/2 the eggplant slices in the pan and cover them with half the tomato sauce. Cut up the fresh mozzarella and place the pieces evenly on top of the eggplant.

DSC03206Cut the sliced meat into wedges and place on top of the mozzarella. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of the meat.

???????????????????????????????Cover the meat and cheese with the rest of the eggplant slices. Spread the rest of the sauce over them. Sprinkle evenly with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.

DSC03208Bake at 350′ for 30-40 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Mangia!

Eggplant Marinara


Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with fresh herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. There are two ways to make this marinara: with eggplant purée or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  3 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon

several grinds black pepper

2 bell peppers and/or red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 bay leaf

3 dried mushrooms

1 roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 400’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red peppers and mushrooms for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

Sauté onion and salt in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes Add sausage, chopped fresh or frozen bell peppers (if not roasting them), chili flakes, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Sauté another couple of minutes until herbs release their fragrance.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can.

Halve Roma tomatoes and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. (If you are using canned tomatoes, add them instead.) Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce.

Quarter mushrooms and mix in sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in basil and cook a couple of minutes.