Spicy Szechuan Eggplant

Spicy Szechuan Eggplant With Portobello Mushrooms And Slivered Almonds

by Danielle Bussone daniellebussone.com

When you want a quick meal to feed a family of any size, this one is sweet and spicy, easy to make and attractive to serve. I prefer using whole Thai chilis in preparing this meal because these chilis aren’t hot unless you bite into them. So, whether or not you prefer spicy or mild, this dish will suit everyone at your table. Just be sure to warn your guests that the whole red peppers are hot!

Makes 7 cups, plus rice

1 large (about 1 lb. 4 oz.) globe eggplant, 10 small round Indian eggplants, or 3 long Japanese eggplants cut into irregular shapes
8 fresh Thai chili peppers, or 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 large red onion, julienned
1 large (8 – 9oz) green bell pepper, julienned
6 (3 – 4 oz.) small multi-colored peppers, quartered (optional). You can usually find this combination bagged together at the produce department of your local grocers.
16 oz. portobello mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices, then cut across into two or three pieces, depending upon size of mushroom (may substitute button mushrooms).
½ cup toasted slivered almonds (or cashews)

Sauce Ingredients:   
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. organic molasses
2 Tbsp. organic brown sugar (packed)
¼ cup organic tamari (may substitute soy sauce)
Enough water or vegetable stock to make 2 cups along with the previous three ingredients

In a large sauté pan, sauté onions until wilted, adding water or vegetable stock to prevent scorching. Stir in garlic, mushrooms and peppers. (If using crushed red peppers, reserve for later.)

Add about 1/2 cup liquid, cover and cook on medium heat until veggies are fork tender, stirring frequently.* Once the mushrooms have released their liquid (signifying the veggies are nearly done) begin making your sauce.

For the sauce, pour 1/2 cup boiling water into a 2-cup measuring cup. With a whisk, stir in brown sugar until completely dissolved. Add molasses and stir until dissolved. Whisk in tamari and set aside to cool.

Check your vegetables and see if the eggplants are fork tender. This is the one vegetable that you really want to be cooked through. If that is ready, finish making your sauce.

I don’t like adding cornstarch until I’m ready to use it. Note that the sauce mixture doesn’t have to be completely cooled, just not hot. If it is hot, the cornstarch will start to thicken prematurely and may clump. If the sauce is too hot, add a half-cup water or veggie stock.

When the eggplants are ready, stir in the almonds or cashews. Add your Thai chili peppers or crushed red peppers.

Finish your sauce by whisking 2 tablespoons organic cornstarch to the sweetened tamari mixture. Add enough liquid to bring the total amount to 2 cups. Stir to make sure the cornstarch is fully incorporated with no lumps.

Stir into vegetable mixture. Cover and allow to come to a soft boil, stirring frequently. You will notice that the cornstarch mixture was rather cloudy when you first added it to the vegetables. In a few minutes, the mixture will become dark and clear. Allow this mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate, the sauce to thicken and become a clear, rich color.

Serve over brown or red rice.

*Note: If you prefer your veggies to have more of a crunchy texture, sauté the mushrooms and eggplants first and after the mushrooms have released their liquid, stir in the peppers, onion and garlic. Then add the nuts, crushed peppers, and sauce.

If you’d like to see this dish prepared, visit my youtube channel: Veggin Out and About

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