I just made 3 veggie dishes for my Friday night dinner, and I can’t say enough about this eggplant dish, this picture doesn’t begin to do it justice! It was super simple and super tasty. It started with a lovely Japanese eggplant from Kim’s Market, a Korean-owned grocery store near my house. Japanese eggplants are long and thin, and often a lighter color of purple than the typical eggplant you find in a grocery store. These eggplants have very few seeds, which not only makes for a nicer texture when eating, but also greatly reduces the bitterness that many people complain about with eggplant. Here’s the recipe for Eggplant with Sesame Dressing, adapted from At Home with Japanese Cooking, by Elizabeth Andoh.
Eggplant with Sesame Dressing
1 Japanese eggplant
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. water
pinch of salt
Wash the eggplant and trim off the ends. Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch width, cutting into half moons if the diameter of the eggplant is wide. Soak the eggplant slices in cold salted water for about 5 minutes while you bring another pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Drain the eggplant slices and toss into the boiling water for about 4 minutes, cooked but still firm. Drain the eggplant again, and then lay out on a double thickness of paper towels to dry out. Pat them between paper towels to remove extra water.
While the eggplant is boiling and soaking, prepare the dressing. Grind toasted sesame seeds with sugar in a mortar and pestle (you can use a small blender or food processor, but you might have to increase the amounts and make extra dressing – no worries – it’s amazing!). Then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Just before serving, toss the dressing with the cooked eggplant slices. One eggplant will make about 2 servings.
My other 2 dishes for the evening were edamame (edible green soybeans) boiled in salted water, and a deep fried tofu with dipping sauce, shown above. I found almost identical recipes for this tofu in 2 books, here’s what I did.
Crispy Tofu (Agedashi Dofu)
1 block tofu, firm or extra firm
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Drain the tofu from it’s liquid, press it dry with paper towel. Wrap it up in a clean dish towel and press between 2 cutting boards or 2 large plates for about an hour. Set it at a slight angle over your sink to drain any additional liquid.
When the tofu is very firm and dry, cut it into large blocks, about 12 pieces from one block of tofu. Heat 2 inches of oil to about 350 degrees in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, toss the tofu cubes (work with about 4 at a time) in a quart-sized ziploc bag with a flour and cornstarch mixture. Shake to remove any excess flour, and then gently place in the hot oil. Fry about 4 at a time for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly golden. I kept expecting them to get darker brown, but it actually gets to a certain point and then stays pretty pale – so you don’t need to overdo the frying!
Remove the tofu blocks onto a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve with any kind of dipping sauce. I still had a dipping sauce from the cha soba noodles in my last post, so I used that. But any teriyaki or other sauce would work fine. It might not be ‘Japanese’, but I think it would be really good with a Chinese sweet and sour or duck sauce. The tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, but it’s a nice crispy texture and will soak up whatever sauce you use. You can also garnish with ginger or green onions for some extra color and flavor.