June 3, 2008

Chinese Eggplant with Okra

I am run off my feet this week, and sadly it is for the most part not in service of Dangerous culinary research, except in the sense of pursuing continued funding.  It's remarkable what a person will do to get by in this world.  Dangerous Kitchen business hasn't been entirely abandoned, but dealing with it can't be my highest priority right now.

I went to the Chinese Quarter this evening and I bought some Chinese eggplant, as is my wont.  I generally use Chinese eggplant even in Italian food.  It's just less work.  You never have to peel it, it doesn't matter that much if you under- or overcook it, and you can do pretty much all the same stuff with it; even eggplant parmesan if you cut it lengthwise.  The texture is never quite the same, but you might very well use it without those eating it realizing your deceit.

Tonight, just across from it, there was some okra - not something I ordinarily see in my 2nd favourite Vietnamese market - across from the eggplant.  I love okra, going back to the homemade gumbo I remember from my childhood, with "filĂ©" picked under a full moon by...  Wizards, or something, I don't really remember what it said on the little jar anymore.  Anyway, I haven't had okra in ages, and as this was both cheap (rare) and not moldy (rarer than it should be), I grabbed some.

The thought of trying to actually make gumbo occurred to me, but it takes forever and I would have had to go further afield for the necessary meats and fishes, so instead I decided to just cook it with my new eggplant.  I cut the okra into thirds and threw it into a moderately hot wok with coarsely cut onions and garlic (two small and one bulb, respectively) and some sesame oil, and a great deal of black pepper - maybe a tablespoon?  No, that's crazy, but it was a lot anyway.  I stirred that once in a while while I cut the eggplant diagonally into slices about a centimeter thick, and threw that in while I cubed up the tofu and then added a little chili and soya sauce, and more black pepper.  Finally I added some canned tomatoes, covered it, and turned it down a notch or two.  I let it cook while I wandered off to do extraneous, non-Dangerous things, and after probably about ten minutes when the eggplant was easily cut with a blunt utensil I called it done.

I served it over rice and ate it with chopsticks; there was quite a bit of liquid from the tomatoes initially but the okra thickens it up remarkably of course, and there wasn't really any "broth".  It came out great - I might, in the future, consider adding even more black pepper, you almost couldn't have too much, but otherwise I don't think it needs any work.

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