Friday, August 28, 2009

Eggplant with four basils

At the farmers' market a couple weeks ago, I found these beautiful tiny eggplants:
You can tell they are tiny because that's only two pounds. I should have included some sort of reference item in the picture. They were reasonably priced, a rarity at Houston farmers' markets, and I couldn't resist them. I knew I wanted to do something special with them. They couldn't be relegated to a pizza topping or baba ganoush, as delightful as it is, or a stir-fry bursting with other flavors. I had never made eggplant basil before, but I knew it was just what I wanted. When we go to a Chinese restaurant, Jon and I almost always get an order of it, but I had never tried making it at home. I looked at a couple recipes online, but they seemed too involved, so I just followed my instincts and made this up.
I used one pound just in case it was awful. It wasn't, so I made it again, with some variations, with the second pound a few days later. This week, I bought another basket of beautiful tiny eggplants and plan on making this dish again tonight. I used dark soy sauce the first time, which is why it's almost black in the picture, and light soy sauce the second time. Both are good. Dark soy sauce is a little thicker and sweeter. I also added tofu skins the second time. They were fantastic, but I also like the simplicity of the dish without it. I call this eggplant with four basils because I have four kinds of basil growing on my balcony garden. Thai basil, with its anisey kick, is the best, but unfortunately my Thai basil plant is petering out, so I supplemented it with my normal sweet basil, purple globe basil, and mystery basil that just started growing in one of my pots about a month ago. It doesn't look like any of the other ones. I think maybe it's a hybrid of Thai and sweet basil that somehow got started by being near my other basil plants, but I don't know. I love mysteries.

Eggplant with four basils
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 lb eggplant, preferably tiny succulent ones, halved or quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch chunks (if you're using regular supermarket eggplant, go for 2x1x1-inch pieces)
4 oz tofu skin, cut into 1-inch cubes, optional
1/2 cup basil or a mix of four basils, divided, roughly chopped if leaves are large
3 tbsp soy sauce, either dark or light

Heat oils in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add eggplant pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add tofu skins, 2 tbsp basil, soy sauce, and 2 tbsp water. Cover and steam until eggplant is tender, about 5 minutes more. Add more water if the pan dries out too much. Remove from heat and stir in most of the remaining basil. Serve over rice with a little extra fresh basil on top.

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