I am afraid that the above photo is not going to win any food photography awards. However, I sometimes wonder whether the famed Japanese obsession with plating and garnishing food doesn't come from the fact that some of their dishes are just inherently ugly. This is one of those examples. Looks like something invented for an episode of the original Star Trek series ("Captain, it's a Cardassian delicacy, reknowned for it's reproductive qualities..."), but actually it tastes very good.
Our friends Stacey and Wyatt (the ones who spent 18 months in Japan recently for those who are following the storyline) served these when we went to their new apartment recently for shabu-shabu. It was a delicious meal all around, but I was especially intrigued by the dish of eggplant and miso rounds, as it was something I've never tasted before. Also, I am always on the lookout for new eggplant recipes: I love them, but get tired of the same old preparation methods. So the very next day I wrote Wyatt to ask for the recipe. Wyatt answered that although he had made them, his recipe was "follow Wife's instructions" and I would have to ask Stacey. When she promptly obliged I was extremely pleased as it meant I could make them as a starter for my own Japanese-themed dinner last weekend.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Stacey's delicious
Japanese Aubergine Rounds with Miso
8 Japanese-sized eggplants or 2 American ones
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
4 tablespoons white sesame seeds
4 tablespoons sweet miso*
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons sweet cooking rice wine (mirin)
Cut off the stems and tops of the eggplants and cut them in halves (if Japanese-sized) or cut them crosswise in 1.5 cm thick slices (if American-sized). Score skin if extra big pieces. Heat oil in pan and saute eggplants on both sides until browned and soft. Arrange them with skin side down on a platter. You may have to do this in batches if all the eggplant won't fit in your frying pan at once. Let cool.
Toast and grind the sesame seeds to a smooth texture. Add the miso, sugar and mirin. Stir. Spread the mixture evenly over each of the eggplant parts. Serve at room temperature.
* Sweet miso is light yellow in color and the labels on the containers usually have a yellow bit.
The only advice I can add to Stacey's recipe is to drain the eggplant well. The ones we had at their place seemed less greasy than the ones I made and I think that may have been because I was too stingy with the paper towels.
The mixture of the nuttiness of the eggplant flesh with the sweet nuttiness of the miso is absolutely delicious. And, as I mentioned in the Is My Blog Burning? entry, I was able to use some more of the sweet miso in the marinade for the chicken breast. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the tub of miso...which is still 90% full...