Pan-Roasted Eggplant With Peanut-Chile Sauce
The chef Cal Peternell, who ran the Chez Panisse kitchen for many years, has a knack for inventing vegetable dishes that are infused with complex flavors. In this recipe, he weighs the eggplant slices down while they roast (like chicken under a brick), which presses out extra liquid and forms a magnificent crust. Finished with a rich, spicy ginger-peanut sauce and sparked with cool, crunchy fresh herbs, it's equally satisfying room temperature as a salad or warm as a vegetarian entrée, served with rice.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 2eggplants, about 1 pound each
- Kosher or sea salt
- ¼to 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, crushed or chopped, more as desired
- ¼teaspoon ground cumin
- 1medium garlic clove, pounded to a paste or finely chopped
- 2to 3 tablespoons sambal oelek, Sriracha or other red chile paste, more to taste
- 7tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, more as needed
- 1(2-inch) piece fresh ginger, cut into fine julienne
- 2large or 3 small scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped or thinly sliced lengthwise into fine julienne
- ½cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Step 1Prepare two heavy skillets: One large skillet and one medium skillet that fits inside the large one. Wrap the medium skillet in foil.
Step 2Using a vegetable peeler, peel wide strips of skin off the eggplants lengthwise, so that they are striped. Cut them crosswise into 3/4-inch thick rounds, and sprinkle them with about 1 teaspoon salt.
Step 3Make the sauce: In a bowl, combine the peanuts, cumin, garlic, 2 tablespoons chile paste, a pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings with chile paste and salt.
Step 4Heat the oven to 200 degrees and place a large baking sheet in it to warm.
Step 5In the large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat until just shimmering. Working in batches, add a single layer of eggplant slices and place the medium skillet on top to press the eggplant flat. Cook, adjusting the heat so you hear the sound of sizzling (not popping, which would indicate burning). Check the color after 3 minutes. When nicely browned all over, about 5 minutes, flip the rounds and place the medium skillet on top again. Cook the other side until lightly browned, about 4 minutes, and transfer to the hot sheet pan in the oven. Add more olive oil to the pan and repeat with remaining eggplant.
Step 6When all the eggplant slices are cooked, lightly wipe out the large skillet and reheat over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirl to heat through and add ginger. Let sizzle, stirring, until just beginning to brown, then scrape the cooked ginger and oil into the peanut sauce. Stir and taste again.
Step 7To serve, arrange the eggplant slices on a platter. Use a spoon to drizzle sauce over the top (you might not use all the sauce). Scatter scallions and cilantro on top.