Miso glazed eggplant or nasu dengaku is a classic Japanese dish and sushi bar favorite. It’s an quick and easy preparation this time of year when eggplants are at their peak. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. From fuchsia to dark purple, beautifully variegated lavender and white to pure white, they have loved our weeks of 90 degree plus temperatures and abundant rain. What we consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties. Actually, Asian eggplants whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg. In this dish the creamy flesh of the eggplant is the blank canvas for the umami rich flavors of a sweet, salty and savory glaze.This recipe is quick and easy, but there are a few special ingredients you may not have on hand. Toasted sesame oil, mirin and miso are usually available at most large supermarkets. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of sake just for the two tablespoons in the recipe, substitute dry sherry. The eggplant is sliced down the middle lengthwise and the flesh is salted for a few minutes to draw out any excess moisture. While you are waiting on the eggplants, preheat your oven and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Keep the parchment in place with a little non stick spray in the four corners. Lightly brush the baking sheet with toasted sesame oil. This will prevent the eggplant from sticking and adds a rich nutty flavor to the dish.Blot the excess moisture from the eggplants and place cut side down on the baking sheet. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the glaze. Combine mirin and sake in a very small saucepan, bring to a boil for twenty seconds, then stir in miso and sugar over low heat. Off heat stir in the additional sesame oil. The eggplants are done in about 15 minutes when the skin collapses and the flesh becomes soft Remove the eggplants from the oven and carefully turn them over, cut side up. Adjust the oven rack to it’s highest position and turn on the broiler.Brush the eggplants with the miso glaze and place under the broiler for about 1 minute, be sure to watch carefully! Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Miso Glazed Eggplant
1 lb of Japanese eggplants
1t sesame oil, plus additional for the baking sheet
1 T mirin
1 T sake
2 T white or yellow miso
1 T sugar or honey
Toasted sesame seeds
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and cut off the stem and calyx. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut an incision down the middle of each half, making sure not to cut through the skin, but cutting down to it. Salt the eggplant lightly and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush it with sesame oil.
Blot the eggplants with paper towels and place, cut side down, on the baking sheets. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is beginning to shrivel and the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the eggplants over, and preheat the broiler.
To make the glaze, combine the mirin and sake in the smallest saucepan you have and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 20 seconds, taking care not to boil off too much of the liquid, then turn the heat to low and stir in the miso and the sugar. Whisk over medium-low heat without letting the mixture boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sesame oil.
Brush the eggplants with all of the miso glaze. Place under the broiler, about 2 inches from the heat, and broil for about 1 minute, until the glaze begins to bubble and looks shiny. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool if desired or serve hot. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
This recipe could also be titled Orange, orange tomato soup. All the recipes I found on line for orange tomato soup included orange juice, but not orange tomatoes. My recipe uses both. Orange tomatoes come in all sizes, from the cherry sized Sun Gold, that you can eat out of hand like candy to the Valencia, an heirloom variety that we are growing this year. Orange tomatoes are less acidic and fruity while still providing a true tomato flavor. Orange tomatoes inspired me to add a little orange juice to the soup to highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.
This is a very quick recipe to prepare, begin by melting some butter and olive oil in a large saute pan. Add chopped shallot and carrot and cook until softened. Shallots provide a milder flavor, but a white onion could be substituted. Add cored chopped tomatoes, roughly torn basil leaves, chicken stock and just a touch of maple syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Allow the mixture to cool a bit before transferring to a blender. Blend the soup in two batches. Very hot liquids expand as you blend them so place a kitchen towel over the lid to protect your hands from any soup that might escape the blender. For the finest texture you could put this soup through a food mill. Next, stir in the orange juice, fresh squeezed of course. Cool the soup to room temperature before placing in a covered container in the refrigerator. Chill for at least four hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
This soup is great for entertaining, it can be made well in advance. It could be dressed up with a seared scallop or a poached shrimp. Serve the soup garnished with some basil leaves and some quartered Sun Gold tomatoes. We enjoyed ours along with a BLT.
Orange Tomato Soup
1/3 c chopped shallots
1/3 c chopped carrot
4 c cored and quartered orange tomatoes
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
½ c shredded basil leaves
2 c chicken stock
1 T maple syrup
¾ c orange juice
In a large saute pan melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat.
Add the shallots and carrot and saute until softened, five to six minutes.
Add chopped orange tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken stock and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for at least five minutes before proceeding to the next step.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. If desired you can also put the soup through a food mill. Put the soup in a bowl and stir in the orange juice. Cool the soup to room temperature. Put the soup in the refrigerator in a covered container and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
Serve garnished with orange cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves.
I love recipes that use the bounty of the garden in a single dish and ratatouille accomplishes that in a very delicious way. In case you didn’t know, ratatouille (rat-uh–too-ee), is a summer vegetable stew that had it’s origins in the Provencal city of Nice in southern France. Traditionally, each ingredient, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes, is cooked separately on the stove top and tossed together at the very end. So it’s really a sauté that is presented as a stew.
In this version the vegetables are tossed in olive oil and roasted in the oven, eliminating the time cooking over a hot stove. Our red and yellow bell pepper harvest is the earliest I can remember. They must like the hot temperatures and abundant rainfall this year. The orange Valencia peppers are not far behind. I prefer using Chinese or Japanese eggplants for their thin skin and milder flavor. I substituted shallots for onions since our harvest was so plentiful this year. The garlic was also from the garden, a first for us.
Cut the vegetables in similar size so they will get done at the same time. The smaller the cut, the less time it will take to cook. Lightly toss the vegetables with about a half cup of a good quality olive oil. Spread them out evenly over two large baking sheets. Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back half way through the cooking time. Roasting allows the vegetables to retain their shape and they take on a delicious toasted flavor. Move the cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl and tossed with a basil chiffonade. Chiffonade, translates “made of rags” from the French (of course!). It is a technique for cutting herbs and vegetables into long thin strips, in this case, basil.
Ratatouille can be used in many ways, a side dish, a topping for bruschetta, chicken or fish. We used it as the topping for an impromptu flatbread pizza. It can be served hot or cold and is even better the next day, if it lasts that long.
Oven Roasted Ratatouille
Serves four (or two very generously)
2 small onions (about 5 oz. each), cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
2 bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch lengthwise strips
Japanese eggplant, about 1 lb, cut crosswise ½ inch thick rounds, then sliced in quarters
1 lb small to medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick rounds
10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
½ c extra virgin olive oil, and more as needed
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ lbs medium tomatoes (about 4), cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
¼ c basil cut into a chiffonade
Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Heat to 400°F. If using convection heat, 375°F.
In a large bowl, toss the onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt and a grind of pepper. Spread the vegetables evenly over two large 12 x 16 sheet pans. Don’t spread the vegetables too thin or they may burn (they shrink a lot as they cook).
Roast, stirring the vegetables a few times and swapping the positions of the pans once, until the vegetables are slightly collapsed or shriveled, starting to brown, and very tender, about 35 minutes for my oven. It could take 10 minutes longer if you are not using convection heat.
Scrape all the vegetables and any juices into a serving bowl. Toss with the basil, taste for seasoning, and serve.
When I am looking for a quick and easy fish entree that comes together in about 15 minutes, swordfish is one of my first choices. I love it’s rich, meaty texture and like to balance it with something that is tart, a bit sweet and a little salty. This palate pleasing salad of oranges, fennel and olives takes it’s inspiration from Sicily.
The orange supremes take some careful knife work but are worth the effort. Using your sharpest pairing knife, trim off the top and bottom of the orange. Rest the orange on one of the cut ends and trim off the peel and pith in large strips, carefully following the contours of the fruit. Cut the segments free from the membrane. Be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all the juices. Squeeze the remaining membrane to capture every last drop of juice. I reduced the juice in a small saucepan to intensify the flavor in the vinaigrette.
I think fennel is a greatly under used vegetable. Related to carrots, parsley, dill and coriander, it has a crunchy texture and refreshing licoricey flavor popular in Mediterranean cooking. To cut, trim the feathery foliage and stalks off where they meet the top of the bulb. The stalks and foliage can be used as a bed for cooking the fish. Cut the bulb in quarters lengthwise and cut out the core. Slice the sections thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. I used fennel thinnings from the garden. They didn’t have a hard solid core so I used the entire fennel bulb.
Kalamata olives are almond shaped and dark purple in color. They are cured in a red wine vinegar brine that gives them a rich, fruity flavor. They are often found on the Mediterranean bar in many supermarkets. To pit olives, place them on a flat surface and lightly crush with the side of a broad flat chef’s knife. Remove the pit and cut the olives in half lengthwise.
Cumin is one of my favorite spices and toasting cumin seeds really intensifies their flavor. Use a small dry skillet over medium to medium high heat. Keep the pan in constant motion, the seeds will darken and your kitchen will be filled with a warm toasty aroma. Immediately remove them from the pan and transfer to a bowl or a mortar and pestle. Crushing the toasted seeds brings out their flavor even more. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put the seeds in a plastic bag and crush them with the bottom of a heavy pan or a rolling pin.
Combine the reduced orange juice, toasted fennel and olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and lightly toss. Serve salad with the fish and garnish the plates with fennel fronds.
Orange, Fennel and Kalamata Olive Salad
1 small to medium fennel bulb
2-3 medium oranges
1//3 c kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
½ t cumin seed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise, removing the core. Thinly slice the fennel, preferably with a mandoline. You will need 1 cup.
Remove peel and pith from the oranges using a sharp paring knife. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, carefully cut between membranes, to remove segments. Squeeze remaining membrane to extract juice. In a small saucepan reduce the orange juice to two tablespoons. Set aside.
Toast the cumin seed in a small non stick saute pan until fragrant and toasted. Grind toasted cumin seed in a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl combine reduced orange juice, cumin and olive oil, stir together.
In a medium bowl combine the sliced fennel, orange segments, and olives. Pour the dressing over and lightly toss. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.