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How to Make “Umami” Eggplant

Umami Eggplant Salad

This recipe doesn’t look like much, but it’s delicious. In my opinion it’s the best use of eggplant that we’ve discovered so far.

Back in my supermarket days, eggplant was not an ingredient that I would ever purchase. When every form of produce is available at all times, it’s easy to ignore those that you enjoy less or are less familiar with. Because eggplant is in season in the summer, there is so much available at the greenmarket that I could still ignore the poor eggplant’s existence.

But I guess that eating this way has challenged us to stretch ourselves. More importantly, there are so many beautiful types of eggplants at the market that they are hard to ignore (Fairy Tale, Turkish, Globe, Pingtung Long). It also helps that I find them to have a better texture and to be more flavorful than their inevitably-get-slimy supermarket cousins.

This recipe is from one of our favorite books, Fast, Fresh & Green. Although from reading the recipe it would sound sweet, it really highlights the flavor of Umami, or “savoriness”. The color cast is very yellow (eggplants yellow very quickly once cut), but the taste is spectacular. You can substitute any variety (or varieties) as long as you wind up with the appropriate amount of diced eggplant.

“Umami” Eggplant

Makes 2-4 servings

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
4 Long eggplants Cherry Lane Farm *
4 Turkish eggplants Cherry Lane Farm *
2 Large bell peppers Lani’s Farm *
0.33 cup + 1 tsp Olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
1.5 tsp Garlic Finely minced Keith’s Farm *
2 TBsp Fresh parsley Chopped Keith’s Farm *
10 – 15 Basil leaves Torn into large pieces Keith’s Farm *
2 tsp Fresh ginger Grated (freeze it and use a Microplane)
2 tsp Lemon juice
2 tsp Soy sauce We used Nama Shoyu
2 tsp Brown sugar Dark brown preferred
0.5 tsp Unsweetened cocoa powder


Eggplants, Turkish Eggplants, and Bell Peppers

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the surface of a large sheet pan. Do not make the mistake that I once did by substituting wax paper. They are not the same!
  2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, cocoa powder, ginger, garlic, and 1 tsp of olive oil. Whisk thoroughly until the cocoa is dissolved.

    The Marinade

  3. Do not peel the eggplants. Trim the ends off and dice them evenly (into about 0.75 inch cubes). Core and de-seed the peppers and cut them into comparably sized pieces. You always want consistent size when roasting vegetables to make sure that they cook evenly and consistently. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, peppers, salt, and the 0.33 cup of olive oil. Toss to coat. Lay out the pieces onto the parchment-lined pan, in a single layer.

    Pan Roasting the IngredientsPan Roasting the Ingredients

  4. Roast for about 15 minutes, then stir them around the pan and roast for another 15 minutes. Check them a few times towards the end to make sure that they do not get over-cooked. The goal is a somewhat browned texture. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the roasted vegetables with the dressing. Gently fold everything over and over with a rubber spatula; over time the eggplant will absorbe the liquid and that is your goal. Mix in the parsley and basil and serve.

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