Sunday, December 13, 2009

CSA week three - Thai basil eggplant

There are lots of recipes on the web for Thai dishes using basil and eggplant. Mostly they're just: fry eggplant, add soy sauce and basil, serve over rice. That not only isn't going to satisfy me, I wouldn't get a blog post out of it. So I started with the most complicated recipe I could find (which, as a bonus, uses the bell pepper) and messed with it.

1 medium-sized European eggplant, sliced into 1"-square cross-section strips
1 1/2 suntan bell peppers (or one red and one green), sliced into short broad strips
1 medium onion, chopped into pieces roughly the same size as the pepper pieces
hot peppers to taste, finely chopped
all the garlic left in the house, finely chopped (up to 3 Tablespoons, but I only managed 1)
1 generous handful Thai basic, roughly chopped

3 Tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 chicken thigh, deboned, deskinned and cut into bite-sized pieces (meat is optional, but I'm compensating for less eggplant than the 3 Chinese eggplants the original recipe called for. If you want to stay vegetarian bar the fish sauce, tofu would be fine or just reduce the amount of onions and peppers.)
1/2-3/4 cup warm water

2 teaspoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons warm water

1. Mix fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar. Add the chicken and put it in the refrigerator to marinate. Mix the cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons water.

2. Heat a wok over high heat until it's smoking hot. Add a Tablespoon of cooking oil, the eggplant and a pinch of salt. Fry, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, until the eggplant is softened and, in spots, browned. Remove eggplant to a large bowl.

3. Heat another 1 Tablespoon of oil. Add onions and bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, until both are softened and a little browned and the onions turn translucent. Remove to the bowl with the eggplant.

3. Heat a third Tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, hot pepper and fry briefly. Add the chicken (drained of the marinade) and cook until the chicken loses its pinkness. Add the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Add the marinade, and a judicious amount of the warm water. Wait until the water starts boiling and add the basil then cook for at least one minute. When everything looks about right to you, add the cornstarch and take off the heat. Stir until the sauce turns glossy and thickens.

Serve over rice, noodles or a salad.

Hmm...not bad, but not fabulous. The texture of the vegetables is just right--soft but with a little firmness left to the bite. But the sauce isn't quite as flavorful as I'd like. A bit more fish sauce, a squeeze of lime and a whole lot of sriracha wakes it up, but the balance is off. Stock instead of water would help, but I think I just don't have enough flavorings for this much vegetation. Maybe my ratios were off.How big are medium-sized Chinese eggplants anyway?

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