Hanging on to Summer Veggies
The farmers markets here in the Portland area are probably at their most abundant right now. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, and eggplants are still bountiful and colorful. But trying to crowd them out are the piles of winter squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts and the rest of the fall contingent. The weather is leaning towards fall but I’m a die-hard summer veggie eater as long as I possibly can be. I know those hefty squash that have absorbed a season’s worth of warmth and turned it into an edible hunk of sunshine will be there for me in a few weeks and will stick around until early spring, not much worse for wear.
But the summer veggies are more fleeting so I’m cooking with eggplant and peppers almost every day and madly preserving tomatoes along the way. I tend to make Italian dishes with these but lately I’ve been having fun with a Chinese-inspired dish–Sweet, Hot, Sour Eggplant–named so by me and undoubtedly inauthentic. It’s quick, full flavored and richer tasting than it is. The Thai basil that’s still thriving in a pot in my backyard makes it extra good but more common Genovese basil, cilantro or even parsley would all be good.
Sweet, Sour and Hot Eggplant
My favorite way to serve this quick Chinese-inspired dish is over short grain brown rice but any rice is excellent. It’s a rich-tasting dish though actually fairly light in preparation.
2 medium eggplant (or several smaller ones—any kind of eggplant will work in this dish—the long slender Japanese ones, more common Italian, globe ones, . . .), skin on, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh, minced Serrano, jalapeno or other hot pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower or other oil
3-4 tablespoons Thai basil, basil, cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowel.
In a large skillet or wok heat the oil and sauté onions and pepper (if using) over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add red pepper flakes (or minced hot pepper) and eggplant and cook until it softens and browns a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. A few minutes before the eggplant is done add the minced garlic and stir well. Then add the sauce and stir well to mix and coat veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Stir in the herbs, saving out a few for garnish if you’d like. Serve hot over rice with reserved herbs.
Happy Cooking and Eating!