Saturday, June 6, 2009

Simple Miso Eggplant & Sunomono (Cucumber Salad)

I've been back in Hawaii for awhile now, and I've thoroughly enjoyed cooking with "whatever is on hand." It's a near-impossible feat to accomplish in Japan, because the way the grocery stores are set up, you buy only what you need. There is no such thing as going to Costco and buying 12 eggplant. Eggplant come in packages of 1 in Japan, and they are at most half the size of the "Japanese Eggplant" sold in America/Costco.

I absolutely adore eggplant. NPR recently hosted a short story reading called "An Eggplant Alone," read by a well-loved author of Gourmet Magazine who had recently died. I've been making all kinds of wonderful eggplant dishes. One of my favorites is eggplant, onions, and garlic diced and stir fried in a pot with a little olive oil. Add feta or goat cheese at the end and stir. It is heavenly with just those ingredients and maybe a little salt and cayenne pepper. Perfect as a sandwich spread or yummy side dish. And so so simple!

I've also made pomodoro alla mellanzana, baked eggplant parmesan, miso glazed eggplant, grilled/broiled eggplant, eggplant in stir-fries, and roast eggplant. All of them tasting deliciously of eggplant.

For dinner last night, I made this simple miso eggplant stir-fry along with sunomono. The eggplant is reminiscent of an ongoing special they had at Yukino, my favorite neighborhood restaurant in Nago. I ordered it during my first "girl's night out" with a few young Okinawan teachers. I found it delicious, and I believe I've created a healthier (less oily) version that tastes just as good.

Note: During the cooking process, I probably consumed about 10 Gummy Bear Vitamins. These things are the best vitamin discovery of my lifetime. They are a multivitamin that tastes even juicier and more delicious than regular Gummy Bears at the store--to satiate my craving for vitamins, I brought a bag of real Gummy Bears, only to leave the package half finished because the real variety were small and hard and too unforgiving compared to my luscious children's vitamins. Buy them at Costco at $9.99 or Safeway for $19.99!

Simple Miso Eggplant (serves 2)

2 large Japanese eggplant (nasu), halved and cut into sixths (1.5" pieces)
1/2 an onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2" ginger, minced (you might want to grate this--I really love my ginger but feeling pieces of it in their food isn't for everyone)
3 large mushrooms, cubed
1 heaping tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon oil (I use olive)
salt and pepper to taste

The "How To"
  1. Cut eggplant and salt it to drain the excess water. It will absorb flavor better. Chop the rest of the vegetables while the salted eggplant rests.
  2. Heat oil in a wok. Add garlic, onion, and ginger. Cook until onions are nearly cooked/translucent. Add eggplant to wok. Cook until half done. Add mushrooms.
  3. Add miso and turn off heat. mix well. Season to taste, maybe with some chili garlic sauce or black or white pepper. Serve!
Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad)

1 costco-sized Japanese (English?) Cucumber
2 tablespoon rice vinegar or thereabouts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

  1. Thinly slice cucmber. Paperthin if you can. Use one of those grater things if you have it to make very delicate slices. Salt cucumber and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. Come back and squeeze cucumber with paper towel to get out the excess water. Mix in rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil. Let rest in fridge or serve immediately. Simple and delicious! I ate the entire huge cucumber all by myself, it's that refreshing on a summer evening :)

1 comment:

  1. kinda jealous that you're back home right nooow. even though i love okinawa still, i do miss the wide variety of food you can get back in the states (and the huge quantities you can purchase).