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

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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

Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes

Springtime brings new potatoes, and they are addictive when roasted in a bit of olive oil with fresh thyme and garlic and sprinkled with salt. I like to roast these miniature potatoes which are called fingerlings, ’cause, well, they look like fingers! The yellow ones are Russian fingerlings and the red ones are French fingerlings. These French ones here are freshly dug new potatoes that I got at the farmer’s market and their skin is very thin.

garlic and thyme in pot

I adapted this recipe from Alice Water’s wonderful cookbook “Chez Pannisse Vegetables”.

Preheat oven to 400

Soak potatoes in salt water for about 10 minutes or so, then scrub the skins. Dry with paper towels.

garlic thyme in olive oil

Select a shallow baking dish that the potatoes can fit  snugly in one layer, Cover bottom of the baking dish with 2 Tb olive oil. Sprinkle about 8 small sprigs of fresh thyme leaves. Halve a bulb of garlic crosswise and separate the cloves, (you don’t need to peel them), and place them in the dish.

fingerling potatoes before roasting

Toss the potatoes in the oil then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Arrange the potatoes so they fit snugly in the dish in one layer, and the garlic and thyme are evenly disbursed. Add 1/4 cup of water for a 8″ square baking dish, less for a smaller one. Tightly cover with a lid or foil.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Uncover dish and bake for another 5 minutes or so until potatoes are dry and a fork easily pierces them. Sprinkle with more salt and serve hot.

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.

Punjabi-style Potatoes and Cauliflower

potatoes in panMy colleague Purva told me a version of this vegetarian recipe made by her mother, who comes from the Punjabi region of India. Purva says onion, ginger and garlic are the base of Indian cooking. She cautioned me to always add garam masala at the end. Turmeric powder adds a nice yellow color and is reputed to have many health benefits.

To make this a vegan dish, omit the butter.

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1 large head cauliflower

4 large Russet potatoes

1 large yellow onion

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp powdered turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 – 2 tsp sea salt (to taste)

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp whole mustard seeds

2 tsp melted butter (optional)

1 tsp garam masala

Preheat oven to 400°F.

???????????????????????????????Cut cauliflower into florets, and then cut florets in quarters or smaller pieces. Place in an oiled shallow baking dish. Drizzle with 2 Tb olive oil and toss gently. Spread in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes until it begins to brown.

Peel potatoes, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice crosswise thickly.  Place in a large pot of boiling water, so that the water covers them by 3 inches, and cook for 25 minutes until soft.

???????????????????????????????While potatoes and cauliflower are cooking, stir whole mustard seeds in a dry frying pan over medium flame until they begin to pop. Set aside.

???????????????????????????????Chop onion into small pieces. Sauté in remaining 2 Tb olive oil until soft, and then add minced garlic, and sauté another minute. Stir in mustard seeds, ginger, turmeric, cumin, pepper and salt.

???????????????????????????????When potatoes are soft, drain, and then mash with a potato masher in the big pot.

DSC03390Add the cauliflower mixture to the potatoes and stir until well combined.

Stir in melted butter and garam masala, and adjust salt.

Drunken onion brisket

???????????????????????????????My cousin’s wife Marcia gave me her succulent and tender brisket recipe. It calls for 20 onions and half a bottle of cabernet.

Marcia recommends making it a day before serving. Although I made it the same day I served it, it was even better the next day.

sliced brisketIngredients:

5 -6 lbs first cut (flat cut) brisket. It is less fatty than the 2nd cut (point cut)

10 garlic cloves

2 Tb salt, 1 Tb each paprika and white pepper

20 onions (either yellow or red onions)

Olive oil to sauté onions

3 carrots

4 celery stalks

2 parsnips

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

Oil a roasting pan. Rinse brisket and pat dry.

rub in spiceSprinkle salt, pepper, paprika on top of the brisket and rub into the meat.

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Cut garlic cloves into thin slivers. Using a paring knife, make slits on the top (fatty side) of the brisket, and stick the garlic slivers in them.

Cover brisket with foil and place in the oven to sear the meat for 20 minutes.

While meat is searing, slice the onions. Working in batches, sauté them in olive oil, until soft but not quite caramelized.

Remove brisket from oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

brisket on and surrounded by onionsLift brisket and place sautéed onions under the brisket. Surround the brisket with extra onions.

???????????????????????????????Peel and chop the carrots, celery stalks, and parsnips and put them on top of the onions. Pour in 1/2 bottle Cabernet red wine over the brisket and vegetables.

???????????????????????????????Cover pan with foil and braise at 350 degrees for 3 hours.

Slice the brisket and place it back in the gravy it made. Serve with the vegetables.

???????????????????????????????I like to serve the brisket over Kasha Varnishkes with fresh herbs

Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce

DSC03130This is truly the best tomato sauce I have ever tasted. The recipe comes from our Roman airbnb house guest, Cinzia. She made it simply with fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, olive oil and a few basil leaves. I added a bit of garlic, bay leaf and fresh oregano. We used Phat Beet’s farmer’s market tomatoes along with some dry farmed tomatoes from Monterey Market here in Berkeley. But it would be good even with grocery store tomatoes.

Makes 2 cups sauce:

8 ripe medium tomatoes

1 Tb olive oil

1/3 medium onion, sliced. We used a purple onion.

½ tsp kosher salt to taste

3 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

5 leaves of fresh oregano

10 small leaves basil (or 4 large leaves, cut up)

???????????????????????????????Fill a medium pot half-way with water and bring to a boil. Wash the tomatoes and de-stem them using a paring knife, then plop them into the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander to cool a few minutes.

???????????????????????????????While cooking the tomatoes, slice the onion.

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While tomatoes are cooling, pour oil into the same pot, heat a minute, and then add sliced onion and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until onion softens. Mince the garlic and stir in.

DSC03134Put tomatoes in a food processor with a steel blade, and pulse until the tomatoes become liquefied.

DSC03139Stir tomatoes into onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, and then add bay leaf and fresh basil and oregano. If you are using large basil leaves, tear them up first. Cover pot and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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