Sunday, October 18, 2009

Asian 2.0

It was simply a matter of needing to eat the eggplant and summer squash that had grown in our summer garden. We wanted to eat it. We just didn't know how to get around to it. We were a little tired of homegrown summer vegetables.
But it was food! Don't waste food.
I came up with this idea of a Chinese-style wokked eggplant. It was Cranky's idea to add the pattypans.
But. How? You cannot make up Chinese cooking if you don't know what you're doing.
I consulted several reliable books, most of which veered far from what I wanted: slightly sweet, savory, gooey.
Wow. All of a sudden, Barbara Tropp to the rescue. This imaginitive, intuitive cook who totally understood Chinese food (but was an American through and through — and spoke Chinese), could create genuine recipes, although they often had a modern, California twist.
Reading her eggplant recipe both freed me to experiment, and taught me to adhere to tradition.
We came up with a melange of vegetables (shiitakes in there, too), tossed with a mix of aromatics (garlic, ginger and chopped rehydrated dried shrimp) and a sauce (soy, water, balsamic vinegar, some sweetener... agave? eep... and a sloodge of the solids from the bottom of the jar of chile oil).
This is all wokked in order. I know I broke the rules, but the sauce came last. The vegetables were fresh, crisp, gardenny. The chopped shrimp added a delicious, meaty chewiness. The other flavors — well, you know. Yums. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Serve with rice.
I am emboldened now to try "Chinese" without a cookbook. Could be a total disaster.
But if you knew how many times Cranky has nuzzled me today because of this meal... Eee!


Tuatha242 said...

i think i need to make something delicious and Asiany with my eggplant etc.(Asiany, is that even a word?)

Moonbear said...

Go eggplant! Go wok! Go Chinesey! And hey. Go Cranky!!

Anna Haight said...

I wouldn't have imagined combining eggplant and patty pans.. but looks awesome!

dancingmorganmouse said...

I'm giving this a go, but if you have any eggplant left, give this a try (from Ilva), patty pan instead of Zucs!

Melanie said...

Fantastic!! I have recently come to appreciate eggplant in a whole new way lately.

cookiecrumb said...

Tuatha242: I know you! Are you who I think you are? I was just thinking about you the other day. :)
Of course "Asiany" is a word. I even use it as a verb, like in "Asian up your food." So, go Asian up your food.

Moonbear: Shall we all go Cranky? It comes naturally to me.

Anna: Such a nice combination, as it turned out. The summer squash lightened up the eggplant. And added a different texture.

Mouse: Ilva. We love Ilva. Can we all go and live in Ilva's house?

Melanie: Eggplant is an adult taste, I think. (Plus, the name is so gross!) But now that you can appreciate it, oh, the places you'll go.

denise said...

Looks YUM and it seems you had fun--all good!

Alice Q. Foodie said...

At some point, probably during a move many moons ago (no pun intended) I let her cookbook get away from me and I'm still kicking myself. Did you ever eat at her restaurant? I never made it and I'm kicking myself for that too.

I also have eggplants from our garden, garlic, ginger, chiles and some chicken thighs that I was planning to stir fry for dinner tonight - so that's quite a coincidence!

cookiecrumb said...

Alice: You have made my day! I've been wondering if anyone would ask if I'd eaten at China Moon Cafe.
YES! Lucky me. It was really eye-opening (although I remember thinking it was a little expensive for "what it was").
I do have both her books. Can't you find a copy?

namastenancy said...

Barbara Troop - MY HERO. I took a class with her once; it was a walk through Chinatown with pointers on all the best places to buy just about any food item that you could think of. Then, we had lunch at another out of the way place where I tried all sorts of things I could never have eaten other wise- grilled eggplant with garlic and hosin sauce, turnip cakes, some sort of spicy greens. It was all good!
I had her Chili Noodle pan cake dish at the late and very lamented China Moon Cafe. I seem to remember that was a bit expensive but well worth it.

Sam said...

love aubergine. Love! today I am wearing an aubergine-coloured dress.

cookiecrumb said...

Nancy: Well, that's a lovely memory. I think you've convinced me to try cooking out of her books more. (Oh, by the way -- turnip cake is my heroin.)

Sam: Moi aussi, j'adore l'aubergine. I'm sorry I didn't give you one from my garden this year.

Sweet Bird said...

Reading your posts make me hurt for California.

I miss home.

cookiecrumb said...

We miss you too, Sweet Bird. Don't you imagine you will be back as soon as obligations are fulfilled?