Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cooking Chinese Eggplant in Solea

Yesterday I had my best friend over for dinner and wanted to make something special. I chose to make a version of a Szechwan eggplant dish adding other vegetables to it. Originally I thought my Solea Casserole pot (which is 2.4 quarts) would be the right size but when I saw how many veggies I had cut, I realized that I probably had to do it in two separate sections. That worked great because of the different cooking times for the veggies anyhow. If you had the larger Solea Casserole pot (which is 4 quarts) or the large Solea Stew Pot (which is 5.4 quarts) you could do it together (just start the eggplant cooking a minute ahead of the other vegetables.)
Here’s what I used:
¼ of a white onion
One medium sized eggplant
One julienned carrot
One julienned stalk of broccoli
One zucchini
One yellow summer squash
2T vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic
1t corn starch
6T soy sauce
3T white rice vinegar
3T Balsamic vinegar
3T cooking wine
¾ cup chicken broth
2T garlic chili sauce
First I filled my Solea pot to just less than ¾ full with water. I turned the gas stove to high heat and boiled the water with the lid on. The lids on the Solea line are gorgeous and so practical. When cooking with the lid on, the concave top allows the evaporated liquid to drop right back into the pot so I didn’t lose any water to evaporation. While waiting for the water to boil, I assembled the ingredients for the sauce. Then I turned down the heat to medium and put the pieces of eggplant into the boiling water. I cooked them until tender, about 2 minutes. I drained the eggplant in a colander in the sink. I boiled more water and added the other vegetables except for the garlic. These I boiled on medium heat for about one minute, so not to overcook them. I like the crisp textures of carrots and broccoli and didn’t want them to be mushy like the eggplant and the squash would eventually be. (I like mushy textures too!)
I drained the other veggies. My Solea pot has a really cool draining feature. It’s easy to just slide the lid a little to create an opening and when you tip the pot, the water will drain right out! Because the vegetables cooked down, there was enough room in my pot for everything. I heated the pot to medium heat, added the oil then the garlic. After lightly toasting the garlic I added all the vegetables including the eggplant back in. Then I added the sauce and stirred it up, cooking for about 7 minutes.
When I could tell that the vegetables were cooked through and covered in sauce, I mixed the corn starch with a little water, added it into the middle of the pot and stirred. That gives the sauce thickness. It gets even thicker if you turn the heat down very low and let the corn starch work its magic for about 5 minutes more.
I love this dish because of the abundance of flavor and how healthy it is. If you are vegetarian, you could substitute mushroom broth for the chicken broth. It makes me realize that most Chinese cooking uses some kind of meat, even if it isn’t obvious by looking at the dish.
Letting this dish sit for a while in the pot allows all the flavors to meld together and it’s wonderfully unified by the time you’re ready to eat!

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