I was so excited about this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge which was kinda like participating in the Mystery Box Challenge à la MasterChef Australia. Hosted by David and Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking, the task at hand was to create your own recipe using one ingredient each from three lists of three ingredients (hope that made sense). The ingredients were:
List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas
Pretty wicked huh? I had a lot of thoughts about what to try and with which combination of ingredients but ultimately I chose Eggplant, Balsamic Vinegar and Instant Coffee.
Immediately, miso-glazed eggplant came to mind but this wasn’t going to involve a great deal of inventiveness in terms of a recipe since this is a much loved dish in Japan and beyond. However, inspired by the combination of miso and coffee in a dessert I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) at Nobu in Perth I decided to jazz up the traditional miso glaze recipe with a hint of bitter coffee.
I had fully intended to do something more interesting with the Balsamic but in the end, it was a no-brainer. The gorgeous sweet and sour liquid was made to replace the mirin and some of the sugar!
So there you have it. Not terribly complex or original but I’m happy to have come across a new recipe for an old classic. The overall flavour was enhanced nicely by the balsamic but without the miso being overshadowed (that would be a hard task, mind you!). The coffee certainly added an interesting note but without making you feel there’s something wrong with the dish. Just a touch of bitterness to offset the sweetness of the glaze.
Nasu No Dengaku (Miso Eggplant)
For a more traditional recipe, please refer to Momofukufor2, or simply omit coffee and Balsamic and increase mirin to 1 tbsp, and sugar to 3 tbsp.
(serves 2-4 )
1 large eggplant or 2 medium sized ‘Japanese’ eggplants (see Note)
1 tbsp cooking sake
1 tsp mirin
1 1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp shiro (white) miso (please try and find a tub of white though regular ‘red’ miso can be used at a pinch)
2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp sesame oil to brush over eggplant (add an extra drop or two to glaze mixture if you are partial to sesame oil)
toasted white sesame seeds to garnish
Note: In Australia, we largely see the gorgeous Rubenesque eggplants (aubergine in the US) but the long skinny eggplant that is commonly used in Japan are widely available these days too. I think we call them Lebanese eggplants which are still different to the ones you get in Japan. There is more flesh in the former but the latter can be used in this recipe perfectly well. Most recipes for Nasu No Dengaku call for the long skinny eggplant but oddly enough, Japanese people are becoming quite partial to the ‘American’ eggplant (Bei Nasu)! My recipe is for the sexy, curvy eggplants but you just need to cut the vegetable lengthwise and adjust the cooking time if using the skinny ones :)
To Make: Cut eggplants into 1.5cm high rounds and soak pieces into a bowl of water for 5 minutes to remove the astringency (the jury’s out about whether this is effective but I do it!). As the eggplant soaks, please mirin and sake into a small saucepan and heat gently. Add Balsamic vinegar, sugar and miso paste, stirring until well combined. Take sauce off heat and add the instant coffee, ensuring each granule is dissolved. Set aside.
Pat eggplant piece dry and make a lengthwise cut around each piece at 2cm intervals. This will stop the skin from bursting during cooking. Also score one side to ensure the centre is well cooked. Brush both sides with sesame oil and place eggplant on a baking tray. Place under an oven grill set to 160C for 4 minutes. Turn eggplant pieces over and spread miso glaze evenly over the uncooked side. I recommend a thin (but well covered) layer. Place eggplant under the grill again and cook for another 4 minutes or until you can see that the glaze has bubbled up and there’s a little caramelisation happening.
Remove from grill, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately. I enjoy this dish with a nice bowl of steamed rice and other steamed vegetables. The glaze’s flavour goes a long way :)