After an afternoon organizing old pictures and sorting through a couple boxes of childhood memories, my mom and I made an old favorite for dinner. This (thought to originally hail from Gourmet) Szechwan-Style Eggplant recipe was originally intended to be a dip, served with pita bread (?). Quite odd really, so we chop the pieces a little bit bigger and turn it into a main dish kind of recipe. It seems lengthy, however when the sauce is prepared first (and this is key - right Mom? :) ), it comes together quite quickly and is not as involved as it might seem. And the results are divine - if you're a fan of the glossy eggplant and garlic sauce found at most Chinese establishments, you'll be thrilled with the taste of this dish. The addition of cornstarch to the sauce gives it that glossy restaurant mouthfeel, and the components of the sauce provide enough heat to make the dish seem more impressive then the sum of its parts.
To accompany the eggplant, my mom used up some old veggies lying around to create veggie dumplings. I introduced her to my favorite Sesame Dipping Sauce and we had some steamed edamame, and a couple baked veggie spring rolls on the side. Altogether, the meal was delightful and just as tasty as having called in a delivery order. And, with the dumpling making, it was a lot more fun!
adapted from Gourmet (?)
My Notes -Mise en place is key. Putting all the sauces in little bowls is such a time saver as actual cooking time is very small.
This is supposed to be an appetizer served with pita wedges (?!?!). If doing main course style - small chopping isn't really necessary and larger pieces would be better. The recipe is somewhat flexible - we added chopped water chestnuts which added a nice contrasting crunch to the otherwise smooth textured dish.
1/4 cup vegetable oil (we used cooking spray with water, sometimes I use a tablespoon of oil and extra broth, whatever works for your dietary preferences)
1 1/4 lb eggplant (peeled if deisred, cut into 1/2 inch cubes - about 6 cups)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable broth (recipe calls for chicken but I use veggie)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot
2-3 tsp Szechwan chili paste (or to taste - I recommend 2 as that's what I used and it was pretty spicy)
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Sherry
3 scallions sliced thin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar packed (I used 2 packets of Splenda I think ... out of brown sugar)
1 red bell pepper minced (or chopped in small chunks)
1/2 tsp oriental sesame oil to taste
In wok or large skillet heat the veg. oil over high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Stir-fry eggplant over moderately high heat for 3-5 minutes or until tender and browned. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.
In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the broth. To the wok add the garlic, the gingerroot, the chilil paste, the hoisin sauce, the vinegar, and the sherry and stirfry misture for 30 seconds. Add scallions and stirfry for 30 seconds. Add soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch mixture (stirred), the bell pepper and the eggplant and stirfry for 1 mintue until eggplant absorbs most liquid. Remove wok from heat, add sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss mixture well.