I'm not an eggplant groupie.
Hear me out.
I adore its lead role in baba ganoush, but my interest wanes when I hear suggestions for its use in dishes like caponata, parmigiana, ratatouille, and worse, that horrible Chinese takeout where chunks of the slimy fruit wade around in volumes of cheap oil.
Did you know that the aubergine is a fruit, and what's more, that it's botanically classified as a berry? That's some news, now isn't it?
Yet, sometimes at the market when I see the lovely nightshade in multitudinous shades from lavender to the deepest black, and even some whose orbs are as white as alabaster, I snatch one up with the hope that she will whisper ideas for which to employ her so that I'm not resigned to tucking her between sheets of zucchini in some boring tian.
As my love affair with Slater's Tender grows, I am willing to try just about anything that this chef suggests. After all, you saw that the carrot browns idea just one post prior yielded a beautiful focal point for a lunch of salad and a bright orange tangle of the root. Brilliant.
So today I set out to give my aubergine fantasy another shot, and as luck would have it, Slater conjured this fabulous idea for a Japanese inspired dish that heralds the fruit's attributes.
What I arrived at was sheer divinity as well as simplicity. It was sweet and savory, and I imagined no less than one million things that it would happily pair with: grilled black cod, roasted chicken, a bowl of simple steamed rice.
I'm happy to submit that there may be a place for Ms. Aubergine in my repertoire after all. As you can see, I never did bother to pair it with anything today, I ate it right from the pan with a pair of chopsticks, and all too happily indeed.
You will find the inspirational recipe on page 223 of Nigel Slater's Tender, below is my bastardization of it.
Here's your larder:
425g Japanese eggplant, or other small variety
1/4 cup mirin
2 TB + 1 tsp highest quality peanut oil
2 TB white miso paste
1 medium-sized Thai chili
5 gram nugget of fresh ginger
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
White sesame seeds, enough for a scattering
Coconut sugar for sprinkling
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and fit a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.
2) Next, halve the eggplant and score the flesh, being careful not to pierce the skin.
3) Whisk together 2 TB of the peanut oil with 2 TB of the Mirin and brush this mixture over the scored eggplant, going over it in two or more passes until all of it is used. Sprinkle with salt.
4) Roast the eggplant until it is meltingly tender. While this little miracle is happening, in your mortar and pestle, pulverize the ginger nugget along with the chili to a fine paste. Mix in the miso, the remaining 2 TB of mirin, 1 tsp of peanut oil and 2 tsp of sesame oil.
5) Using a flat spatula, carefully flip the roasted eggplant over and liberally brush with this mixture. Sprinkle with the coconut sugar, then disseminate the sesame seeds over the whole shebang. Pop under a broiler until the sugar bubbles and the faces of the eggplant brown.
6) Try not to eat the entire panful before the rice is steamed.
Mangia bene, vivi felice!