For a quick, simple, and economical dish, you can not beat this common northern Chinese pairing of slippery cool eggplant and rich sesame sauce. It is especially good in summertime, when eggplants are plentiful and the urge to cook and chew is at low ebb.
Pull off the leaves, then wash the eggplant and prick in several spots with the tines of a fork to release steam during baking. Bake in a heatproof dish in a
Remove from the oven, then immediately cut off the stem ends and slit the eggplant in half lengthwise to release the steam. Cut large eggplant lengthwise once or twice again, to yield long wedges about 1 inch wide. Chill cut side up, uncovered to allow the heat to escape, in the refrigerator until cold. Once cool, proceed to assemble the dish or seal the eggplant airtight and refrigerate up to 2 days.
Peel Western eggplant entirely. Remove most of the peel from Asian eggplant, leaving on a bit for color if it clings.
For a chunky or shredded dish, cut the eggplant into ¾ inch cubes or shred by hand or with a sharp knife into long, thin strips. Place in a shallow bowl, top with a thick ribbon of sesame sauce, then garnish with the coriander or celery leaves to taste. Serve immediately after saucing and toss at the table. Have a bowl of sauce available for those who will want more.
To purée, cut the eggplant into chunks and add to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Process until coarsely chopped, add the sauce, then process until nubbly or completely smooth, as desired. Taste, and add more sauce if the flavor of the eggplant requires it. Mound in a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped coriander or celery leaves just before serving. Serve immediately or, for fuller flavor, seal airtight and refrigerate 1–2 days. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled, alone, with unsalted crackers, or with wedges of Pan-Fried Scallion Bread or toasted pita bread.
Leftovers keep several days, sealed and refrigerated.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.