Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Can't Reveal My Name

But Eggplant Is My Game

A sailor has got to eat. Why not eat well?

My first recipe for eggplant (college days) was eggplant Parmigiana. Like most Americans, perhaps, I always associated eggplant with Italy and so tended to use it in Italian recipes - fried or boiled, added to pasta sauce, etc. There are of course others like ginger or curry eggplant. (Sorry, I don't do curry, which is ironic since eggplant originally grew wild in India, then was cultivated in China around 500 AD, and later spread to Africa, and only later to Italy.)

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Eggplant is a most beautiful vegetable, but maybe not the most inspiring taste-wise, I will grant you that. However, its mildness lends it well to complimenting other foods. It is also a very healthful veggie, with lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals, and also phytonutrients that have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Lab animals with high cholesterol given eggplant juice showed a reduction in blood cholesterol, while the walls of their blood vessels relaxed, improving blood flow.

Eggplants are also rich in antioxidents and "nasunin", which is not only a potent free-radical scavenger, but is also an iron chelator. Too much iron in your blood is a bad thing. Green tea and soy beans inhibit iron uptake, by the way, which is believed to be one of the reasons that people in Japan have the world's longest health longevity (years without disabilities or need for therapeutic drugs). In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes.

Bottom line, this vegetable helps the body fight/prevent aging, rheumatism, cancer, and cardiovascular disease so is something very good to include in your diet. Of course the word is "helps", not "cures", but compared to the "atomic cheese doodle" kind of crap we in the industrialized world tend to eat, eggplant is pretty amazing stuff.

After coming to Japan, I was happy to learn that this country is one of the five major eggplant producing nations. Japanese eggplant are long and thin, often curved (like Italian eggplant), rather than, well, egg shaped. Kimie cooks them in a miso sauce, which tastes pretty darn good, though I think the miso flavor kind of overwhelms the mild eggplant a bit much, and they loose something when cooked to the point of being limp. Also, Japanese eggplant, when cut into quarters lengthwise, remind me of those giant worm "graboid" monsters in the movie "Tremors", but Kimie doesn't like me to play with my food anymore than Mother did. Sigh. Women have so little tolerance for imagination at the dinner table.

Part of the humbug with most eggplant recipes is the the amount of preparation - slicing them into little pieces, salting them and laying them up to draw out the moisture, frying, etc., but a few years ago I found a recipe that is really simple to prepare yet very delicious. I modified it to my taste of course. I hope you'll give it a try.

Here's "Steamed Eggplant Pandabonium":

4 Eggplants - any of the purple kinds will do and there are lots of varieties. (I'm growing two varieties in pots this summer and a neighbor just gave us a bag full - thus, the inspiration for this post.)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) rice oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mm) honey

  • (Please ignore the space that follows. It isn't due to any influence from O Docker's posting style, but rather is there because I've never figured out how to write a table for blogger that doesn't have a space after it.)

To prepare, just take the stalk off, cut into quarters (first in the middle, then lengthwise), and steam for 5 minutes.

While it's steaming, wisk up the other ingredients - get them really well blended. When the eggplant is served, just spoon the sauce over it. Et Voilà! That simple.

*I do not recommend substituting other kinds of vinegar. Chinese and Japanese rice vinegars are much sweeter than what Americans are used to. Whatever else you may change (like using sugar because you're out of honey, or substituting another kind of oil), please stick with rice vinegar without fail.

You may also enjoy listening to Michael Franks' song "Eggplant" while preparing or eating this dish. I wanted to share it with you within this post as well, but the YouTube embed feature is not allowed. So click here to listen:

Bon Appétit!

and until next, sweet sailing.


Baydog said...

Now you're talking. I LOOOOOOOOVE eggplant, the only member of my household to be so brave. So, when we start getting it from the farm, a grillin I will be, layering it with zucchini, tomato, garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, and grated cheese. Then, after it's cooled, slice terrine style and eat as a snack or with any meal. Nothing but summer flavors

O Docker said...

This looks great - beyond my galley skills, but must work some eggplant into my next vegie sauté.

The space looks good, too.

Anonymous said...

I love eggplant too, and just harvested some and ate for lunch. I agree on the rice vinegar.

Have you tried Kyoto Nasu? It is a local variety, more round and full shape, and very tasty!


Appropriate Word Verification: "Juganit"

Don Snabulus said...

I like the simplicity and ease of the recipe. I will have to try it, though I may need to find a way to reduce the oil on my current diet.

I need a veggie change of pace as I am in a bit of a rut.

Pandabonium said...

Baydog - that sounds good too. Now if I only had a grill...

O Docker - "beyond my galley skills"... well, there's always raw with mayo like in the song. :p I'm glad you like the space. I was afraid I might be accused of plagiarism if I didn't explain it. :)

Martin - I don't know if I've had Kyoto Nasu or not. I'll have to have Kimie help me find it. Thanks.

Don - no worries on the oil. You only need to spoon a little on and most of that ends up on the plate anyway. The batch size is large to make it easier to prepare and once made is kept in the fridge. So the actual amount you eat is tiny. Alternatively, you can cut the rice oil back to just a couple tablespoons - I've had it that way and it's good.

Pandabonium said...

Don - When I first read your last sentence I thought it said "as I am a bit of a nut".
I need my second cup of coffee...

Zen said...

Sounds good, worth a try