29 June 2010

Eggplants and Peppers in Miso

When we lived in Japan, we had a super tough time at first with the cooking. We didn't know what the ingredients in English-language Japanese cookbooks looked like, and we didn't know their names in Japanese. Japanese-language cookbooks were an even worse slog, requiring hours with the Kanji dictionary. Sucktastic!

But then we found this great cookbook, Stone Soup: Easy Japanese Home Cooking, published by Kodansha. On the cover in friendly katakana it proclaimed, "bilingual." And that's just what it was! Plus hand-drawn pictures! You can see one recipe a week from it at SheJapan.… I won't lie. It's a weird cookbook. Some recipes are great, but many involve tempura and cream cheese. I avoid those, plus any others that give you a heart attack just by reading them.

So today for lunch I made nasu to piman no miso itame, as my homestay Japanese mother would call it, or Eggplants and Peppers in Miso, as I would say it. I cut the recipe in half. This is the kind of dish that absolutely has to be a side. The flavor will overwhelm you if you eat it all by itself as an entree. It definitely needs to accompany rice plus maybe pickles and something savory or cooling. It's super fast to make and I used vegetables that are hanging all over my garden plus pantry ingredients I always have on hand.

If you're gluten-free, you have to be careful with miso paste because the Japanese don't do GF certification. Still, you're probably better off with their pastes than the kinds made in the U.S. in which the companies stuff all sorts of nasty wheat products in. Just check the ingredients and be careful. My miso paste has four ingredients: soybean, rice, salt, and water.

3 Japanese or small eggplants
2 small or 1 large pepper, any kind
1/2 Tablespoon oil, preferably sesame oil.
1/2 Tablespoon miso
1 Tablespoon sake
1 Tablesoon sugar (you could reduce this a little)

1. Cut off the eggplant caps and cut the eggplants into half-moons.
2. Soak the eggplants in water for 5 minutes to mellow their flavor. Drain.
3. Seed and julienne the pepper. Also, mix the miso, sake, and sugar.
4. Heat oil to medium heat in a fry pan and add eggplant. Sauté until tender. This could take a while, so you might want to lid the fry pan and stir often.
5. When the eggplants are tender, add the pepper. Cook 1 minute.
6. Add the miso mixture to the vegetables. Stir until thoroughly coated and heated through.
7. Serve hot, with rice and a bunch of other stuff.

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