- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

With so much focus at this time of year on holiday feasts, special-occasion recipes are so numerous it seems that even the recipes have recipes.

What we really need are some ideas for dinner on ordinary weeknights, when the fact that we’re tired and uninspired conflicts with our need for something cheerful and slightly out of the ordinary — an edible light at the darkest time of year.

Here’s such an idea, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s a straightforward eggplant stir-fry that tastes exotic even though it can be made easily with fairly standard supermarket ingredients.

The exotic edge comes from a sparkling combination of seasonings that provide the chameleon eggplant yet another opportunity to showcase its flavor-absorbing talent.

These are flavors worth absorbing. Serve this over jasmine rice, with or without some broiled tofu or chicken alongside. Cookies and oranges for dessert will round out the cheer.

Southeast Asian-style eggplant with chilies, red onion and mint

2 large eggplants (about 3 pounds)

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 cup sliced red onion

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic

3 to 4 serrano chilies, in thin strips or rounds

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 to 3 tablespoons (packed measure) brown sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 cup (packed measure) fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into ½-inch-thick slices, then crosswise into ½-inch thick sticks.

Place a large, deep skillet or wok over medium heat.

After about a minute, add the oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, eggplant and salt, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies, and sherry; continue cooking and stirring another 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice with 1/4 cup water and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Stir this into the eggplant, then cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is very tender and has collapsed in volume by about half.

Remove from heat, stir in the mint, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.


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