Have I mentioned that I have a terrible habit of buying produce without any idea of how I intend to use it?
Actually, there are a lot of times that I purchase something knowing exactly what I want to do with it, but it never happens. I throw away a lot of potatoes. Two autumns in a row I have purchased a pumpkin, planning to try to make kaddo borawni (aka, pumpkin with a garlic yogurt sauce, aka, the most delicious thing ever). And two Januarys in a row, I have realized there is still a pumpkin sitting in our dining room. On at least one occurrence, there were little cat tooth marks in it, too.
I know I have mentioned that I hate wasting produce, so sometimes buying an unfamiliar vegetable forces me to find a way to use it. That’s how I discovered Swiss chard, fennel, and broccolini, for instance.
It might sound odd, but eggplant is actually a fairly unfamiliar vegetable to me. I never liked it as a kid (I still do not understand the appeal of eggplant Parmesan), and while I’ve had some dishes with it recently that I liked, I have not cooked it much myself.
The little Japanese or Chinese eggplants are less intimidating to me. I added some to a curry last summer with relative success. Trying to replicate baked slices of eggplant that I had at a friend’s house… not so successful.
When I saw some little eggplants at the farmer’s market last week, I had to take advantage of them, especially since Nick was going to be out, allowing for a low-pressure, experimental dinner for one.
I semi-followed a recipe, but didn’t keep track of precisely what I did. So I suggest you use this as inspiration, and check the Bon Appetit recipe for Stir-Fried Eggplant and Green Beans more structured guidance.
Instead of chili-garlic sauce, I had Thai roasted red chili paste* on hand, so to make it a little more garlic-y, I sauteed some sliced garlic in the olive oil first. I used zucchini instead of green beans because that’s what I had around. I didn’t use tofu, because I just cannot bring myself to like tofu, unless it is in soup (of the miso or hot and sour variety). But I tried this with sliced mushrooms another time (not pictured) and that was excellent, if you want to add a bit more meatiness to the dish. If you choose to add mushrooms, saute them in the garlic-infused oil for a minute or two before you add the other vegetables. Also, I use the term “stir-fry” very loosely, as I don’t think my technique necessarily adheres to stir-fry tenets.
Eggplant and Zucchini Stir-Fry
(This made a very generous serving for one person. Don’t judge me. It’s all vegetables, so it’s okay. If you add mushrooms, or a second zucchini or eggplant, you’d have plenty for two people.)
Thinly slice 1 garlic clove.
Quarter 1 zucchini, lengthwise, then halve each quarter lengthwise so that you end up with 8 spears. Cut each spear into 2- to 2-1/2-inch pieces.
Halve 1 large or 2 small Japanese or Chinese eggplants**, then cut into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.
Mince a handful of scallions (dark green parts only) or chives.
Heat some olive oil (1 tablespoon or 2) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic slices in the oil, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, discard garlic slices and reserve oil in skillet.
Add eggplant and zucchini to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, about 2-3 minutes. You can add some red pepper flakes at this point if you like a little more heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1-2 tablespoons chili paste and 2-3 tablespoons water with a splash of soy sauce if you like.
Pour sauce into skillet with vegetables and simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about one minute.
Serve over rice with scallions or chives sprinkled on top.
*I just realized this has fish sauce, anchovies, and shrimp as ingredients so it’s not actually vegetarian. But for my purposes I still see this as a meatless dinner.
**I have a vague understanding of Japanese eggplants being shorter than Chinese eggplants, but I have no idea which ones I was working with. When it comes to how many eggplants to use, go with your gut.