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Stir-Fried Sesame Eggplant

Stir-Fried Sesame Eggplant
Because stir-frying is a fast technique, the absorbent flesh of eggplant has little time to soak up any oil. Stir-frying also sears the edges of the pieces, adding rich flavor and a nice color to the vegetable. Both large, dark purple globe eggplant and the slender, pale or dark purple Asian eggplant can be used for stir-frying. A garlicky sauce with hints of nutty sesame pairs well with the mild flesh.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 lb. globe or Asian eggplant
  • 1 tsp. sea salt, if using globe eggplant
  • 1 Tbs. peanut or grapeseed oil
  • 3 Tbs. diagonally sliced green onions, both
      white and tender green portions
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:

Prepare the sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, wine, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and garlic. Place the bowl near the stove so you can easily reach it.

Prepare the eggplant
If you are using globe eggplant, use a chef's knife to trim the stem end and the base, then cut in half lengthwise. Place the halves, cut side down, on the cutting board and cut each half lengthwise into slices about 3⁄4 inch wide. Lay the slices flat and cut crosswise into sticks about 3⁄4 inch thick. Put the eggplant strips in a bowl and toss with the salt. Transfer to a colander and let stand in the sink or over a bowl to release the bitter juices, about 1 hour. Turn the eggplant out onto several layers of paper towels and let drain; pat to absorb any excess moisture.

Alternatively, if you are using Asian eggplant, it is not necessary to salt them, as they are milder than globe eggplant. Just trim the stem ends and cut them on the diagonal into slices about 1 inch thick.

Ready your equipment and heat the wok
Preheat an oven to 200°F and place a platter in the oven to warm. Have ready a wok, preferably about 14 inches in diameter, and 2 long-handled wooden spoons or spatulas. Be sure to turn on your kitchen ventilation to disperse any smoke. Place the wok over high heat. Hold your hand over the pan until you feel heat rising, then add 1 1⁄2 tsp. of the peanut oil. Carefully tilt and rotate the pan so that the oil is distributed evenly over the surface and is hot and shimmering.

Stir-fry the eggplant
Immediately add half of the eggplant and cook, tossing and stirring constantly with the 2 wooden spoons or spatulas, until golden on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer the stir-fried eggplant to a bowl, cover to keep hot, and repeat with the remaining 1 1⁄2 tsp. peanut oil and eggplant. Then, return the first batch of eggplant to the wok, toss to mix and remove from the heat.

Add the sauce, adjust the seasonings and serve
Pour the sauce over the eggplant and toss to coat thoroughly. Add the green onions and sesame seeds and toss once again. Taste and adjust the seasonings; often it's the sharpness of the vinegar that brings the other flavors into focus. Transfer the eggplant to the warmed platter and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Chef's Tip: Eggplant that has just been picked—the kind you find at farmers' markets—doesn't need to be salted. You will find a greater variety of eggplant at farmers' markets, as well. Rosita, Neon and Purple Rain are a few examples of good varieties to try.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Series, Vegetables, by Deborah Madison (Simon & Schuster, 2006).