Baby Japanese eggplant: recipe suggestions?
The wife and I were fortunate to have purchased a pound of the above at a local farmers market, none over two inches long. On a previous occasion, we used same in an Indian dish with tomato and nuggets of pork (very nice), but we wonder what else could be created? Any suggestions? Something with lentils? Pieces of lamb? Unfortunately, we have no grill, but they could be broiled, of course. Please let your creative juices flow, and if a winning recipe emerges, we will report back. THANK YOU ALL.
Quick Japanese pickles: Slice thinly and salt. Drain and squeeze out salty water after slices dehydrate. Pour over mix of vinegar and sugar that has been brought to a boil (in the MW is easiest); add a bit of chile powder or flakes if you like. Refrigerate and serve cold.
My most favorite way to cook.serve.eat Japanese eggplant is stuffed. Turkish style, meaning "patlican dolmasi." I looked on the internet to see if I could Google up a decent recipe, but couldn't, so if you don't mind not having exact teaspoons and such, here's how to do it:
Trim off stem end of eggplant and hollow them out with some sort of reamer. Try to keep the shell intact. Set the shells aside, cover as airtight as possible, and if you like, put them in the fridge while you make the filling.
Salt the reamed out eggplant bits so they release their bitterness. Let them sit while you mix the filling. I use about a pound of ground lamb or ground beef. If you use beef, don't make it too lean. Mix it with a cup of rice, a finely chopped medium size yellow onion, some chopped parsley (save the stems for the bottom of the pot), some chopped fresh dill if you can get it or some dried dill weed, some fresh or dried spearmint, a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, and about a cup of tomato juice or a half cup of tomato sauce with the same amount of water. Salt and pepper to taste. Squish (a culinary term!) it all together with your hands until it's well mixed. Rinse the salt out of the eggplant scrapings and squeeze the water out on a paper towel and add it to the mix. If you want to go for a bit of a southern Turkish/Middle Eastern flavor, you can add a pinch of cinnamon if that's your thing.
Traditionally, a saucepan with a rack in the bottom is used. If you one of those "petal leaf" steamer racks that fits a large enough saucepan, that wil work great. If not, we'll forego the rack. Scatter the parsley stems over the rack or the bottom of a good heavy saucepan or dutch oven that will hold the eggplant in one layer. If you have any dill weed stalks, lay them down too. If there's too much open pan surface and you don't have a rack, you can us a lettuce leaf or fresh spinach on the bottom of the pan.
Stuff the hollowed eggplants with the meat/rice mixture. Don't pack too tight because the rice will expand during cooking and you don't want to split the eggplants open,but don't leave it too loose either. Cover the top of the stuffed eggplant with the stem if you can get it to stay. Sometimes a toothpick or two helps, sometimes not. And it won't effect flavor if you leave them out altogether.
Place the eggplants in the pan so the filling wont dump out during cooking. The way I do it is lay them in the pan so that the open end nestles on top of the bottom end of the next eggplant. I end up doing a ring of eggplant around the outside of the pan, then the rest snuggle in the middle using the outside guys as pillows. Drizzle with olive oil (or dot with butter) and add about a cup and a half of water if you have them on a rack, or enough to not reach the top of the open ends of the eggplants where it will run into the filling. If you have to cook them without the rack, it's better to add a little more hot water several times during cooking than it is to turn them all into mush!
Simmer over low heat for about forty minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size of the eggplants. I take the lid off and taste a bit of the filling to see if the rice is tender. I hate mushy rice! And for what it's worth, I usually use a medium grain rice, but long grain or even short grain works too. I just don't particularly like jasmine in this dish, but it's all personal taste.
When they're done, remove them to a warm plate and serve. It's traditional to serve a sauce with them. If the pot liquor is good and thick and flavorful, it will do nicely. Or a tomato or avgolemono (egg/lemon) sauce is good too.
And make two or three extra and invite me. I LOOOOOVE this dish...!!!
Thanks for this, Caroline. A request for clarification, please: Are you using cooked rice or raw?
(btw, this is a lovely preperation for small aubergine, but I'm not sure it works for the very slender Japanese eggplants that OP is talking about. That said, I've been wanting to learn how to make stuffed Turkish eggplant for a while, now, and appreciate the recipe.)
Raw rice. And I have used Japanese eggplant for it. Some are more slender than others, so I look for the chubby ones when I'm shopping. I have a very ancient "vegetable peeler/apple corer" combination tool that I don't think they even make any more that I use to ream out the eggplant. But I've also used a melon baller (just be careful not to get off center and end up cutting through the outside), and a cheap dime-store steak knife and just bored into the middle using it like a screw driver.
I've never found "regular" eggplant small enough, though I don't see why you couldn't cut them in half, scoop them out as "boats" and just fill the shells the way you would for imam bayildi. If I did it thar way, I would lay a piece of waxed paper or parchment over the top of the filling to help keep it from getting too mushy. And maybe bake them in a casserole dish instead of cooking stove top Never tried the small round eggplants. Just never thought they would hold enough filling to make me happy.
The filling recipe is also great in hollowed out zucchinni, tomatoes and green peppers. If you're really adept with a knife and can hollow out a sweet onion, they would be good too. And when/if I have any filling left, I cook it in a small dish adding the tomato juice/sauce to it, a little olive oil or butter on top, and maybe even a bit of panko.
I don't see any reason why you couldn't par-boil your rice if you want to hurry cooking time, but I wouldn't cook the rice fully or you'll be risking mushy rice. But I do tend to think using the raw rice allows it to absorb more flavor than parboiled rice would. And I don't think instant rice would work well at all. That's the thing I absolutely hate about every Greek/Turkish restaurant I've tried in the last five years. They overcook the rice until it's like library paste. It should retain the integrity of the individual grains. I have used bulgur instead of rice. It wasn't bad, but overall I prefer the rice. It just "tastes right." Never tried brown rice.
Ooops! Apropos to the other thread about what to do with pine nuts, I have been known to toss some pine nuts into the filling, as well as black currants. But NOT raisins! Its good with and without. I forgot to add this because I'm in the middle of baking baklava and tyropita. If my digital camera hadn't been stolen, I'd take pictures and share. Sorry!
Yesterday's trip to my Farmers' Market also yielded small eggplant. In my case, they were small, white and perfect. Immediately, I thought "towers" and assembled the necessary tomatoes, basil & mozzarella to construct red, white & green edifaces (edifici?) for our supper.
I made a chunky tomato sauce and pesto, saving some of the fresh leaves. Layering roasted eggplant slices with sauce, eggplant, pesto + leaves, etc and baked for about 20 minutes. I topped with mozzarella and barely melted that. What evolved were more like squatty bungalows, delicious nonetheless.
Moral of the story: I'd rather eat my food than play with it. Great idea, poor execution.
Two Japanese style:
Roast over gas flame, remove skins under running water, top with sauce made with hot water, soy sauce, mirin, and bit of hon-dashi.
Broil 1/2 inch slices topped with miso mixed with lemon juice.