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Soft, tender eggplant generously coated with an umami-packed miso glaze. A healthy, delicious side dish ready in under 20 minutes!
Eggplant is and always has been one of my favorite vegetables. It’s used a lot in Japanese cooking, so I grew up eating it stir-fried, grilled, broiled, fried, and in miso soup. However, my first attempts at cooking eggplant myself were just sad, dry, and tasteless. Over the years though, I’ve learned that eggplant is one of those vegetables that you really have to know how to cook in order for it to taste good. Unlike zucchini, which you can just throw in a stir fry, soup, stew, curry, etc., eggplant won’t taste good if you don’t learn how to properly cook it so it becomes tender and moist. Luckily, I’m about to share with you these secrets (don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple)!
The secret to making eggplant taste good
Oil! If you’ve ever tried cooking an oil-free eggplant dish, you probably understand what I mean when I say dry, tasteless eggplant. Eggplant is full of tiny air pockets that are quick to absorb oil and liquids. However, if you’re cooking with little to no oil, then there’s nothing to fill these air pockets in the eggplant (unless you’re making a soup). Think of eggplant as a sponge — it will quickly absorb liquid around it, but if there’s nothing to absorb it stays hard and dry. Now I know some of you are probably thinking that if you have to use so much oil, is it even healthy anymore? Following some of these tricks will help tenderize the eggplant without needing so much oil.
Sweat the eggplants
This helps draw moisture out of the cells and into the air pockets, so not as much oil can enter. Sweating eggplants also cuts back on their bitterness. To do this, cut the eggplants in half (I like to also peel some of the skin) and make slits in the flesh, as shown in the photos above. Don’t cut all the way through the eggplant. Then sprinkle salt over the surface and let the eggplants sit at least 10 minutes. During this time, liquid should start to come out of the eggplant and rest on the surface. Wipe off the liquid that forms.
Precook in microwave
Next, microwave the eggplants until soft, about 5 minutes. Flip halfway through. You can spray some oil over them if you want — it will tenderize the eggplants more and give them a richer flavor.
Brush oil over eggplant surface
One last trick to using less oil is to brush the oil on top of the eggplant before cooking, rather than pouring oil into a pan. This way you have more control over how much oil you use, and the oil will be distributed more evenly resulting in a more evenly tender eggplant.
With all that being said, don’t be afraid to consume some oil! Sure it may not fit the strict confines of a “whole foods plant-based diet”, but it’s tasty and (in my opinion) can easily be included in moderation in a healthy diet. Life’s no fun if you don’t break some rules.
8 simple ingredients
- eggplant (duh)
- oil (see all the above paragraphs if you have concerns) I recommend olive or canola oil
- red miso (for that umami goodness)
- sake (Japanese rice wine)
- mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
- kombu dashi (you can make your own or buy dashi powder) — if you can’t find dashi, you can omit and just use water, add soy sauce to taste
- maple syrup (I love the combo of miso and maple, salty and sweet)
- corn starch (necessary for thickening the glaze)
If you try out this recipe, please don’t forget to tag me in your recreations on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and/or leave a comment down below and let me know how you liked it! I love seeing your recreations and am always open to feedback of any kind 🙂 Happy cooking!
And if you’re in the mood for more miso…
Miso Glazed Eggplant
- 2 large American eggplants
- 2 tbsp red miso
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 cup kombu dashi*
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp corn starch + 1/4c water
- 2 tbsp olive or canola oil add more as needed
- salt as needed to sweat eggplants
- Peel the eggplant skin in stripes (you don't have to peel all of the skin off). Cut each eggplant in half vertically. Make slits over the surface but don't cut through the skin. (Refer to photos at beginning of post). Sprinkle salt over the eggplant surfaces and let them sweat for at least 10 minutes.
- Wipe off the liquid that comes out on the surface of the eggplants. Optionally spray/brush oil over the tops of eggplant. Microwave until soft, around 5 minutes. Flip halfway through.
- Meanwhile, mix together the corn starch and water to make a slurry. Set aside. Make the miso glaze by combining miso, sake, mirin, dashi, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Stir continuously. When the miso mixture starts boiling, add the corn starch slurry and continue to mix until the glaze has thickened. Turn off the heat and let sit while you prepare the eggplants.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Brush oil over the cut sides of the eggplants. Place the eggplants cut side down on the frying pan and cook until soft and browned. Brush remaining oil on the other side of the eggplants and flip eggplants over. Cook till browned and soft. Pour miso glaze over top and serve while still warm.
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