I love simple, healthy dishes that stand firmly on the flavors of the fresh produce, not fancy sauces or seasonings. You enjoy the dish because the flavors of the in-season vegetables stand out, not because some heavy sauce is trying hard to cover up the bland, tasteless supermarket veggies.
This dish is just that. The ingredient list is simple, and the vegetables, which came straight from the garden, are as fresh as can be.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently had a chance to forage my pastor's garden for many sorts of delicious vegetables, such as Chinese hollow heart greens (kong xin tsai), eggplant (Chinese and American types), bell peppers, and green beans!
I found a simple recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's book, Land of Plenty, which included two out the four veggies in my bounty: eggplants and bell peppers. Score! I like this recipe because the ingredient list is surprisingly simple, yet the end result is surprisingly flavorful. Fresh eggplant is delicious when sauteed, and I think it's the simple flavors of the eggplant which are coming out in this dish. This recipe uses the dry fry method, a Sichuan specialty. What's cool about the dry fry method is that very little oil is used, and the eggplant ends up sort of being toasted on the wok instead under lower heat.
Dry-Fried Eggplants adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop
1 lb eggplant (preferably Asian long eggplant - see note below if using normal eggplant)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ green bell pepper
peanut oil (I used canola)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and then slice thinly at an angle, about ⅛ inch thick. Cut the peppers into thin slices.
Smear the wok with a layer of oil just enough to coat it to prevent sticking. I used a paper towel to do this. Heat the wok at medium high and wait until the wok is quite hot and the oil is smoking. Add the eggplant slices and stir and toss around for about 3 minutes. Try not to overload the wok otherwise the pieces will not cook evenly.
Then add the pepper slices and 1-2 more tablespoons of oil. Continue stir frying for another 2 minutes or so until the pepper is cooked. Season with more salt if necessary.
Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil, and serve.
1. The ratio of vegetables is quite flexible, and you can vary it according to your preference. In my case, I did not have a pound of eggplant, so my ratio has more green peppers than the original recipe
2. I found that adding just a bit of minced garlic really makes this dish stand out. The second time I made it, I sauteed about a tablespoon of minced garlic (which I conveniently got from the freezer due to this method!) in a small amount of oil before adding the eggplant.
3. If you plan on using normal eggplant instead of the thin Asian kind, you should soak the eggplant slices in a bowl of salt water (add about 1-2 teaspoon of salt to the bowl) for about 15 minutes before cooking. This draws out the bitter compounds in the eggplant. The water will look a little brownish yellow after about 10-15 minutes. Asian eggplants do not have this problem.
4. I can't tell whether this recipe is an authentic dry-fry method or is a hybrid version. I guess you do stir the eggplant around in the wok for several minutes, but the later addition of 2 T of oil has me a bit suspicious. Maybe the eggplants are being "dry-fried" but the bell peppers are not. In any event, the dish is yummy. 🙂
Enjoy! And happy Autumn to everyone!
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