miso-glazed eggplant

We were a bit ambitious this evening at chez secret menu, taking our imitation of restaurant fare up a few notches with the addition of fermented soy product. As JM wisely observed, we consume a lot of fermented things: cheese, wine, beer, yogurt, and chocolate are all staples of our diet. So why not add miso? I mean, it can’t be that difficult to use, can it?

Now that I’ve done so, I’m going to go ahead and say that while cooking with miso is not all that tough, fitting into your jeans after eating foods prepared with it can be somewhat challenging. I am one of those people who swells up like a Grow-A-Monster after eating salty foods, adding inches to every bodily circumference. This has always been the case. Once, when I was seven, I put a pen cap on my pinky while I was eating crackers (I had to store it somewhere, right?) and my finger swelled up so much that the pen cap got stuck. It took two grown women in polyester tie-neck shirts and a great deal of upper body strength to remove that thing, and over twenty years for me to admit that any of it actually happened.

So, yeah, I don’t always do well with salt. I am quite fond of saltiness – both in flavor and in humor – but can’t fully rely on it for entertainment. Nonetheless, I decided to commit to it for an evening, and really took the bullet train to sodium town without bothering to secure my return ticket. And it was worth it, even if my rings are fitting a lot more snugly than usual.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
(Serves 2-4)

*Disclaimer: If you want a more authentic recipe for Japanese miso-glazed eggplant, AKA nasu dengaku, go here, here, or here. I make no claims of anything but Having Fun In My Kitchen, and leave tradition to more qualified cooks.

-1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
-4 tbs vegetable oil (I used olive)
-4 tbs miso paste
-2 tbs mirin
-1 tsp rice vinegar
-1 tsp agave nectar or brown sugar
-2 tbs water, sake, or white wine
-1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
-1 small clove of garlic, crushed
-1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
-thinly sliced green onions or chives for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 °F. While you wait for it to warm up, place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet or three (the eggplant I used was enormous – you may prefer to use the slimmer Japanese ones) and drizzle them with the vegetable oil. Don’t add salt. I know that sounds weird, but don’t. There is so much salt in the miso, you will shrivel up into a craisin if you add any more.

Now, in a small mixing bowl, spoon out your miso paste, mirin, vinegar, agave nectar, water (or sake or wine), sesame oil, and garlic. Mix ’em up until they resemble something that we will call a “glaze” – because “lumpy brown paste” won’t help your case once you actually sit down to eat it.

Set the glaze aside. Marvel at how the dog starts wagging her tail and pacing frantically around the kitchen. I suspect this is because miso has a very strong smell that is lost on humans, but reminds dogs of small woodland creatures (or possibly large ones). To try and understand why my dog was reacting like I had just let Our Neighbor Totoro amble into the house, I put my face in really close and took a deep whiff of the glaze. It smelled like my garden – if I had watered it with soy sauce. Not entirely a bad smell, and not entirely an unfunny mental image.

Anyway, back to cooking: put the eggplant rounds in the oven and let them cook for a good 10-15 minutes until they brown up nicely. Flip them over, and give them another 10 minutes or so to roast on the other side. Switch the oven to broil to get an even deeper tan hue on those babies. Don’t be too proud, because you’re going to smear glaze all over them, thus obscuring your oven mastery.

Once they’ve been glazed, sprinkle your eggplant discs with sesame seeds and a little greenery. Green onions work best, but I didn’t have any. Forgetting ingredients is my wabi-sabi. I used chives from the yard instead. They look nice, yeah?


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