Yesterday I talked about my trip to the Asian market, and today I cooked with some of the things I picked up. When I got home in the afternoon, I immediately googled Thai eggplant, trying to discern how they were customarily eaten and prepared. What I learned was quite interesting. Apparently, these green and white balls are commonly eaten raw in Thailand and dipped in a chili sauce. When overripe, as denoted by black (as opposed to brown) seeds, they are sauteed in green or red curries. Apparently overripe eggplants are a bit too bitter to eat raw. I also found that people generally don't eat the seeds. You'll be happy to know that I took one for the team and chomped into a whole raw eggplant. After falling on the floor screaming of being poisoned, I decided that the flavor wasn't in the least bit offensive and was quite similar to the purple eggplant commonly found in the US. So I got up and continued cooking.
Brown seeds. The black ones were significantly darker and smaller. And please excuse my cuticles.
Well, I didn't have anything on hand to make a Thai curry, and no one in this house (save The Brother Who Will Eat Anything) would dip a raw eggplant in chili sauce, so I had to come up with an alternative plan. I thought the eggplants were so cute that it would be fun to preserve their shape and stuff them. I found one recipe that accomplished this, but it had more of a Japanese flair that I wasn't interested in. They're Thai eggplants, right? A little suggestion for those of you out there in need of inspiration for improvisation: restaurant menus! I started to peruse menus of different Thai restaurants to see what flavors they paired with the eggplant as well as how they used some of the other ingredients I had on hand. There's no need to replicate a restaurant dish, but if you're looking for authentic flavors and pairings, they are a great place to start.
That is how I came up with my stuffing. It is crispy, has notes of sour and heat, and would make a really great cold appetizer. I think a little cilantro or Thai basil would be a nice addition if you have some on hand, but they stood well without it. The stir fry is a healthy main dish I slightly adapted from a magazine and is a great and quick way to use up any veggies you have around. Both dishes provided a filling and light dinner.
Stuffed Thai Eggplants
15 eggplants, preferably firm and about the size of a golf ball
1 cup oyster mushrooms (I used one very large King Oyster Mushroom)
1/2 cup jicama, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup carrot, grated
2 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sesame or peanut oil
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Thai basil, chopped raw peanuts or cilantro for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. Wash your eggplants and then slice off of their tops such that they can still hold stuffing, but are open enough that you can remove the insides.
3. Remove the seeds and some of the flesh from the insides of the eggplants being careful not to let them crack. I found that if you hold them in your hand like the picture above the cut, and then dig a little first into the middle, you will alleviate enough pressure to avoid cracking the outer shell. But don't worry if you do, as mine still held stuffing.
I used the 1/4 teaspoon to scoop my eggplant. It was small enough and an effective scraping tool.
4. When all of your eggplants are scooped, rinse them off with a little water to remove any excess seeds. Save 1/2 cup of the flesh.
5. Place eggplants on baking sheet, trying to get them to stand up. If you push down a little bit, they will usually stay erect. Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake for 10-15 minutes. When done, eggplants will have turned a sort of purple color, be slightly soft yet still maintain their shape and crispness. Let cool until cold.
In the process of getting them to stand up straight prior to baking.
6. While eggplants are cooling, heat up a pan with peanut oil. Add in mushrooms, carrots and garlic and allow to cook for three minutes.
7. Add in soy sauce and oyster sauce, and cook until mushrooms have gotten softer.
8. Add reserved eggplant innards, scallions, jicama, green onions, pepper flakes and lime juice. Cook for a minute, until warm. You don't want your jicama and scallions to get mushy because they provide some of the crunch. Add salt if needed.
9. When filling is cool, scoop into eggplant shells. Serve cold.
Orange Shrimp Stir Fry (Adapted from Diabetes Forecast May 2010, 6 servings)
Shrimp & Veggies
1 lb fresh shrimp
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch
sesame or peanut oil for pan
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
Any veggies you want. We used broccoli and choy sum. Peppers, carrots and mushrooms would be good, too.
1/2 cup fresh orange or orange-pineapple juice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cornstarch
1. Mix shrimp with soy sauce, rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Prep your vegetables and make the sauce. Make sure to whisk it together well to remove lumps.
Choy sum. Edible flowers are always good.
3. Add a little bit of oil to wok and throw in shrimp. Cook through, watching closely so they do not overcook. Set aside in a bowl.
4. Add a little more oil, garlic and ginger, and stir fry for 30 seconds.
5. If you have onions, carrots or peppers, add first. Otherwise, add broccoli and any other greens. Cook for 1 minutes and then add chicken broth. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes until broccoli is cooked.
6. Add in the sauce and cook until it thickens up slightly. Then throw in shrimp so they are covered with sauce. Serve over rice, noodles or by itself.