Soy and Corriander Marinaded Grilled Eggplant

Fall is definitely in the air here in California’s central valley. Already I am seeing winter squash at the Farmers Market and pumpkins being harvested in several fields adjacent to the river. Day and night time temps have cooled by at least ten degrees and my garden’s production has cooled down too. I’m getting a squash, a cucumber and a few eggplant every now and then.

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Recently a friend shared an eggplant marinade with me that used coriander, aka cilantro leaves, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. It sounded pretty good there were a couple of eggplants in the garden that would be ripe soon so I printed out the recipe, picked up some fresh coriander at the farmers market and waited for the eggplants to get eat’n size.

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The eggplants finally being big enough to pick, it was time to give the new recipe a try. It’s a pretty simple recipe, although there is a 45 minute marinade time so it’s not something you can throw together last minute. You put all the marinade ingredients in to a blender jar, hit the switch until its well mixed then rub marinade into the eggplant’s cut side, place them in pan with remaining marinade and wait.  The recipe recommends microwaving the marinaded eggplants but I’m not much for microwaving veggies so I grilled them. The link to the recipe can be found here.

All in all I thought the dish turned out pretty tasty. I was worried that I might have put in too much ginger but it seemed to be just the right amount and for those of you who who don’t especially like the strong flavor of coriander/cilantro I didn’t feel it was overpowering in any way.  I think that a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds would be a nice way to finish the dish. I not sure If I like this marinade better than my favorite green onion marinade but it’s a nice alternative I’ll use again. You can find my recipe for Sesame Eggplant with Green Onion here if you want to try a nice eggplant marinade but really don’t like coriander/cilantro.

As I started writing this I got curious about coriander/cilantro. I found out it is not only an herb it is also considered a spice, it has been cultivated and used as a medicinal and culinary herb for at least 3,000 years tracking back to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. It’s Asian use goes back several thousand years. Its also unusual as all parts of the plant; root, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds can be used. I found the site The World’s Healthiest Foods to have good information for those of you, who like me always, want who want to learn more.

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Slow Post For A Quick Stir-Fry

There is much talk these days about “slow food”, but this is about “slow posts”. I have been trying for over a week to get this posted. I didn’t have trouble getting to the Farmers’ Market to shop, that’s part of my Sunday routine. I bought the shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, scallions, and more green garlic so I could try a recipe I had found for Ginger Fried Rice. I made the recipe. It was delicious. I even got photos taken but what didn’t happen was finding the time to write and put the words and photos together. I’m sometimes amazed how long it takes.  Do you have weeks where it seems like you go from Monday to Friday in just one day instead of five?

Shiitake mushrooms are, in my opinion, simply the best. I love the flavor and the texture finding them even meatier than a Portabella. I guess the edge the Portabella has is its size. I’ve never seen a Shiitake that comes even close to the Portabella in size and I’ve never tasted a Portabella that comes close in flavor to the Shiitake.

Also known, as Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom, shiitake are the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. They also have an ancient history being recorded in Japan back to AD 199 and in China there are written records of them during the Sung Dynasty (AD 960-1127). During the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), they were prized not only as a food but also as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost life energy and prevent premature aging. Today they are still touted for their curative properties and extracts from the mushroom and sometimes the whole dried mushroom, are used in herbal remedies.

Prior to 1972 it was thought by the USDA that the species was invasive so cultivation was not allowed in the United States. In 1982, Gary F. Leatham published an academic paper based on his research on the budding and growth of the Japan Islands variety; the work helped make commercial cultivation possible in United States.

Today,  mushrooms have become popular in many other countries as well. Russia produces and also consumes large amounts of them, mostly sold pickled, something I have never tried. There is a global industry in  production, with local farms in most western countries in addition to large-scale importation from China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere.  A lot of the imported mushrooms come to us dried. They have a very rich flavor but I prefer the texture of the fresh ones.

The fried rice recipe I made was a variation on one I found on epicurious.com.

Ginger Fried Rice with Shiittake Mushrooms and Asparagus

Makes 6 side-dish servings

2 tablespoons plus 1-teaspoon vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten with 2-tablespoons water

1 ½ tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I recently read that you can freeze ginger root and just grate it into a recipe and that’s what I did this time and it works great. You don’t even need to fool around with peeling it)

3 scallions, white and green parts chopped separately

3 green garlic, white part and tender light green parts sliced thinly  (optional)

½ lb asparagus cut on the diagonal into 1” pieces

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

½ lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced (you could substitute dried shiitake that have been soaked and drained, or you could try crimini but the flavor and texture of either of these will be very different than the shiitake. I definitely wouldn’t recommend using the white mushrooms.)

3 cups cold cooked white rice (I use a short grain white which tends to stick together more than the long grain but it worked just fine.)

½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds (not sure how many I added probably a tablespoon or two)

Heat a wok or a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot. Then add ½ teaspoon vegetable oil and swirl around wok/pan. Add half of egg mixture and swirl pan to coat bottom with a thin layer about 5 inches in diameter. When egg crêpe is set, about 45 seconds, transfer with a wide metal spatula to a plate to cool. Make another egg crêpe with remaining egg mixture. Roll each crêpe into a cylinder, and cut crosswise into ¼ inch-wide strips, then unroll. (This was so simple to do and I loved the way it looked and tasted. If you don’t want to make the crêpes, scramble the egg and water mixture)

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add ginger, white part of scallions, garlic and salt and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shiitakes and s and stir-fry until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble rice into wok add asparagus pieces and stir –fry until rice is lightly browned and asparagus is still crisp tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add scallion greens, egg strips, and sesame oil, tossing to combine.

I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute broccoli for the asparagus. Just keep the pieces cut into sizes that will cook uniformly, or steam the broccoli separately then add at the end with the scallion greens and egg strips. I think I would also like to try this with bok choy as the vegetable. This is an easy meal to prepare, as with most stir-fries the longest time will be spent in preparation.

If you give this one a try let me know how you liked it and what substitutions you made.

Spaghetti Squash continued – My Sister’s Recommendation

Here’s the spaghetti squash recipe from my sister. Her comments are as follows:

The squash took 15 minutes more than this suggested, so plan on longer cooking times. I would use roma tomatoes next time, just for the firmness of them. I used regular black pepper and would probably opt to put it on before serving the dish for “presentation” purposes.  I also used more than it suggested and maybe just a tad too much, but it still was SUPERDELICIOUS.  I would make this again and again and again. Did I say again??? I did not use any lemon, but will try that next time. Oh and I don’t have a clue if the Parmesan was low fat but I did use fresh (grated myself).

The recipe is from Vegetarian Times, January 2004


Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

  • 2 lb. spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini (8 oz.), diced
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
  • 1 small lemon, sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place squash halves, cut side down, in baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water, and cover dish with foil. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven, and cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1-tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add zucchini, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until zucchini begins to brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Using a fork, scrape squash strands into a bowl. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Mound squash in the centers of four pasta bowls. Spoon vegetable mixture around or over squash strands, dividing vegetables equally among bowls. Drizzle with more oil, if desired, and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Add lemon slices, and serve.

Annie’s comments:

Really looking forward to trying this one later this year when zucchini and tomatoes are in season at their best.

Spaghetti Squash

I cooked up a nice little spaghetti squash yesterday. Beautiful, isn’t it? It was easy to fix. I just cut it in half, well that wasn’t as easy as it could have been, scooped out the seeds, place the squash cut side down in a baking dish, added about an inch of water, covered the dish with foil and popped it into a 350° oven for about an hour and a half. Guess this could take two hrs or so if the squash was a large one. You can tell if it’s done if it’s soft to the touch or it’s easily pierced with a fork. Great, I said to myself, now I have this lovely squash all ready to go. How do I want to eat it tonight? I took the easy way out.

I heated up a very nice little marinara sauce I had in my pantry, spooned it over the squash and topped it with some nice shaved parmesan cheese. A little salad on the side and I had a very nice little dinner. If you don’t want to eat a vegetarian version, add some browned ground turkey, ground beef or some sausage to the sauce. I really wanted to throw in some sauteed Crimini mushrooms but I had used all I had, and they were sold out when I hit the market on Sunday. That happens when you go later in the morning. So next time I fix this version, I’ll add sauteed mushrooms and perhaps a nice little bit of sauteed chard too. All in all it was an easy, satisfying, and tasty dinner.

Since I still had enough squash left over for at least a couple more meals, I decided to check out other ways to serve spaghetti squash. After about an hour of surfing around and reading recipes, I came across one that was very close a recipe I use for rice, and I thought that it sounded pretty good. The other factors in my choice were that I had fresh sage in the garden and pine nuts in the freezer. Wa la, lunch today. For this version, I toasted the pine nuts in a dry fry pan until they were golden. I always add more than I need because I have a habit of tasting these lovely little nuts while I’m cooking them. After the nuts are toasted I remove them from the pan and add a little olive oil, a pat of butter, and the sage leaves. Then I sauté that mixture until the leaves are crisp. Crush the leaves in the oil mixture, and then pour it over the warmed squash. Top off with the pine nuts and there you have it. This version was very yummy.

I still have enough squash for one more meal and I will share with you how that will be fixed as soon as my sister sends me the details, or the recipe, for the version she cooked yesterday.

More to come . . . .

Put spaghetti squash on your Farmers’ Market shopping list, and maybe some Crimini mushrooms too. If you live in the Southwest you’ll also be able to buy pine nuts at your local Farmers’ Market.