Confession. Until recently, I really didn’t care for eggplant. I’d tried it grilled,fried, parmesaned, ratatouilled, and baba ganoushed. I liked some of those things alright, but not enough to make it at home on a regular basis. That all changed when I traveled to China. I discovered that I really liked eggplant there. In fact, the first time my Chinese sister-in-law ordered it for us I had to ask for a translation of what the dish was in front of me. I simply didn’t recognize it as eggplant. Here in the states the versions of Szechuan or Chinese Eggplant I had tried were often heavily sauced, slick with skins, slimy and just plain greasy. This dish is none of those things.
So, upon my return I recreated my own version of one of the dishes I so enjoyed there, Szechuan Eggplant on the Evo Grill. This Szechuan style recipe might just change your mind about how much you like eggplant. And if you are already a fan, it is a great new recipe to try out. The final result is spicy, slightly crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle, and totally delicious. I now can sit down and literally finish off two medium eggplants alone. The high even heat of the EVO and its large cook surface are ideal for making this dish. But you can use a wok or griddle and get good result inside as well. Just be sure not to crowd your pan. Give it a try, and see if you aren’t converted as well.
Warning- this is a recipe is well suited to those who enjoy spicy food. Feel free to lessen the chili paste and to substitute a little Chinese five spice powder and fresh ginger if your not a big fan of hot chilies. It will be different, but very versatile and delicious.
- Use vegetable peeler to remove all skin from 2 medium eggplant. Cube into 1 inch pieces.
- Salt with liberal amount of kosher salt and set in colander set over your sink to drain for 20-30 minutes. (You can weigh cubes down with a can or pot to help drain away juices faster.)
- Once drained, give quick rinse and spread out onto paper towel on counter top to dry.
- Chop 4-6 whole green scallions into small dice and add to eggplant.
- Place eggplant and scallions back into colander and toss with just enough cornstarch to lightly coat. No more than a couple tablespoons or dish will be gloopy.
- Mince 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 ginger root. Lightly sprinkle with pepper to taste. If using 5 spice-add 1 t now.
- Heat Evo grill to high. Add 1 T coconut and 1 T grapeseed oil onto preheated grill and add eggplant. (You can also use wok or griddle with good result for this recipe.)
- Spread pieces out so they aren’t touching and let brown on first side before tossing. Cook until all cubes are caramelized all over- about 4-5 minutes.
- Turn down heat to medium low.Pile cubes together and add 1-2 T Szechuan Chili Paste, 1 t dark soy, and 1 t black Chinese vinegar. (If you enjoy more sauce you can add 1/4 c vegetable or chicken broth now. I prefer a drier crispy dish, but you may want more sauce.)
- Toss and spread out again for a minute so flavors combine. Garnish with cilantro. Serve by itself,over rice, noodles or as a vegetable side dish. (I just sit down and eat it right away!)
Assuming you have leftovers they do keep very well. Reheat them for salads or as a side dish. Faced with a large CSA box, I will often cook all my eggplant at once. Then eat throughout them week in different ways.I particularly like a leftovers served as a lunch wrap. First I warm the eggplant. Then I add arugula and a spread of hummus onto a whole grain tortilla. I finish with a small splash of black vinegar and drizzle with a little Szechuan oil and salt. So good and very healthy for you to boot.
Pictured here is my homemade Szechuan Paste. The ones available in the Asian market will often have things I don’t want (MSG and sugar) and not enough of what I do ( vinegar and real Szechuan peppercorns). Next post, I’ll run down how to make a batch at home for all you heat seekers out there! If you do use a store bought paste or oil, just add some black vinegar and extra Szechuan peppercorns for authentic flavor. Here’s a link to buy them at Dean and Deluca.
Let me know in the comment section if we win any new eggplant converts with our Szechuan Eggplant!