(Almost) Less Than 5: Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

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Sauted Eggplant with Miso

Many years ago, my fridge (or especially freezer) looked like a morgue.  No more. Ever since I started Kitchen Wizard, my kitchen is a lot more organized and that has helped me decide what to cook much quicker, and also reduced waste significantly.

They all have the labels with dates and contents, I know exactly what I need to use up soon, and for what.

Today, that item was grilled eggplant.  As some of you older readers remember, I posted a series of eggplant recipes over the summer. Throwing eggplants on the grill whether we plan to eat on that night or not, along side our chicken and sausages is a must for us, because they are one of the most convenient and versatile thing to have on hand. As the day gets colder and shorter, we don’t grill out much, but they are still handy in fall and winter too – for different dishes.

So I decided to make an easy Japanese dish that can be made with pantry items.  This really is a cinch if you already have grilled or sautéed eggplants (ideally cooked in vegetable oil, not olive oil). Obviously, grilled eggplants are healthier – it uses much less oil and salt.  You can also stick the whole eggplants in the toaster oven until soft. You can use a conventional oven too, yet a toaster oven heats much quicker (doesn’t require pre-heating), plus uses much less energy.

If you are vegetarian/vegan, omit the meat or chopped shiitake mushrooms as substitute.

Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • Ginger, sliced: about 1 ts
  • Green onions, chopped: about 3
  • Crushed chili (optional)
  • Japanese, Chinese or Italian Eggplants: (ideally already grilled) 5-6
    • This is a cinch if you have already grilled or sautéed eggplants. Cut in bite size pieces. You do not need to peel skin for this dish.
  • Ground meat: 4oz (100g)
  • Sake: 2 TBS (sprinkle 1 TBS on the meat, mix 1 TBS into miso to create paste.)
  • Soy sauce: 1 ts
  • Sugar: pinch
  • Miso: 1 – 2 TBS

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Cook sliced ginger and green onions (and chili, if you are using) on medium-high heat until fragrant. (If you don’t have cooked eggplants, add oil and sauté sliced eggplants. Add a little bit of salt to shorten the cooking time).  When soft, move toward the edge of the pan.
  2. If you have the cooked eggplants, add to the onion ginger mixture. Add ground meat and any sake residue, and cook until brown.
  3. Add soy sauce and pinch of sugar, and mix in the miso/sake mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kitchen Wizard Leftover Make-Over Tip:

If there’s any left over, add hot water and miso and make eggplant and ground meat miso soup.  Add extra green onion on top.

This is a kind of dish they serve at Izakaya as well as at home in Japan…  So maybe you should have some beer or sake with this, and pretend that you are in Japan!

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Recession Forces Americans to Eat Less Meat… Have You?

The economic downturn may have a positive effect on the meat-heavy American diet??

Something exciting to hear by Louise McCready, in her gourmet.com article titled Recession Flexitarians.

According to the article, “Fifty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the American Meat Institute say they have changed their meat purchasing relative to the economy. Despite the recent increase in home cooking, the average family only prepares 3.9 evening meals that include a meat item, down from 4.2 meals last year.

Andrew Gottschalk, an independent analyst at the agribusiness market-research website HedgersEdge.com, reports total beef demand is down 7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008—the equivalent of the entire metropolitan area of Atlanta becoming vegetarian. And farmers across the nation, anticipating continued low demand, are planning to cut their production of beef, pork, poultry, and milk, along with corn, wheat, rice, and peanuts.”

This is a great trend, in my opinion! Even though it might have been caused as a reaction to the recession, it’s great that average Americans finally are eating less meat, and now they know there are many other choices than meat, that are healthier and tastier, let alone cheaper.

As a native Japanese, I’ve noticed that typically people in the US eat twice as much meat, and half the amount of vegetables, compared with those in Japan. If you compare the same type of recipes, it’s quite obvious why.

Watch a cooking show – it’s all meat and carb dishes in the US, whereas in Japan, it’s mainly vegetable based dishes with a bit of meat (or of course, fish and rice).

That’s probably reflected in the obesity rates in the US vs. Japan. (30% vs. 3%). The good news is now Americans too are learning to "stretch meat" by adding minced veggies in burgers, etc., which force people to eat more plant-based food!  And by adding more flavors, people tend feel satisfied faster with less food, compared with just a large piece of meat with a single flavor.

This will be huge! I really believe those who change their eating habits to "less meat and a more plant-based diet" will be become healthier and thinner.

This shift is really important for baby-boomers. At least in the US, you can’t quite rely on Medical Insurance to take care of you when something happens, so each one of us need to be fully responsible to make the necessary changes to prevent any health crisis.

And the biggest benefit is for kids who start eating this way, thanks to the parents’ wise decision to change their eating habits so they will not have to worry about obesity.

I hope you will join this healthy trend, by tweaking your recipes to include more vegetables, and stretch your dollar and dinner, and extend your life span.

Have you joined this trend?  If so, how? 

No? Why?  Are you planning to in the future?

I’d love to hear your opinions. : )

Kitchen Wizard Tool Box Part 4: Kitchen Shears

Another handy tool that is underutilized, yet saves you a lot of time is a pair of Kitchen Shears.

You can do a lot of things with them…

  • Cut through packages,
  • Cut long skinny things like green onions and chives,
  • Cut through chicken bones,
  • Cut up a whole fish,
  • Cut through crab shells and crack crab legs,
  • Cut soaked dry Chinese bean threads right in the bowl, before draining the water,
  • Cut whole tomatoes right in the pan, or can,
  • Cut up ribs and barbecued meats,
  • Cut just about any food, just like at your favorite dim sum restaurant,
  • Cut flowers and herbs from your garden,
  • and more….

Especially if you don’t feel too confident with your knife skills, they will make your life easier.

My Wusthof shears is about 10 years old and don’t come apart, but I love them and never had any problem cleaning. It was about $50 (got it as a wedding gift.)

Now there are many come-apart type for $20-25, including Wusthof. Here’s the link to cooking.com’s kitchen shears review.

Just make sure that your children will not borrow yours for their craft projects!

Mirepoix Three Ways: 3. Sauteed Mirepoix and Meat Mixture

The third version of Mirepoix is Sauteed Mirepoix and Meat Mixture, basically adding meat in the sauteed mirepoix and brown it.  And one step beyond SMM Mix is SMMT Mix, meaning Sauteed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture.

At each step, the usages multiply! It’s like a simple math, isn’t it?  It’s fun!

When the meat is added, I use the mixture in small quantities in pasta, stuffing for veggies and/or raviolis, and fried rice.

When I have a large quantity, it often becomes a base for Bolognese sauce or Chili by adding a can of tomatoes.

SMMT Mix (Sauteed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture)

By adding a small quantity of chopped tomatoes (preferably fresh ripe ones), I use it as stuffing, as well as  in shepard’s pie.

By adding a large quantity of canned tomatoes, I use this as a base of Bolognese sauce or Chili. I could prepare up to this point, then split into two.

  1. Add Italian spices, Red Wine, and Milk to make Bolognese sauce which you can use it for pasta, lasagna, etc.
  2. You guessed it, add beans and Mexican spices, and voila, Chili!

KWIK Bolognese Sauce (Skip steps 1 and/or 2 if you already have them. : )

  1. Make sautéed mirepoix by sautéing 2:1:1 ratio of chopped onions, carrots, celery in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Add uncooked sausage and brown.
  3. Add a can of tomatoes, Italian spices (basil, oregano, etc. fresh preferred), chili peppers, red wine, milk/cream or broth/spaghetti water if you already have some. Optional: Add tomato paste and anchovy paste (Additional flavor enhancers.)
  4. Bring to a boil, then simmer without cover and reduce, about 30 min to 1 hour. Adjust seasoning. Add some pasta water to sauce when you add pasta to help the sauce adhere to the noodles.

Tips: Pasta is one of the few things which you should not “batch and fridge”. It gets stuck and it’s not very useful. Either cook exactly what you need or if there’s any leftover, make pasta salad immediately (Some pre-prepped vegetables and meat will be handy here!) or as a last resort, mix pasta with the sauce, and save it for lunch next day.