Stir-Fried Eggplant, Peppers and Tofu

I love brunch and being lazy on a Sunday. I always eat a lot of great food and desserts when I go out to brunch (thankfully, I don’t have brunch every week). I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot! I don’t regret it though. At this moment, my lazy ass is sitting here in my pyjamas writing about food after having consumed quite a bit of it. It feels good to share.

I absolutely love eggplant and tofu is always good, especially if you marinate it. It’s not marinated here but still good mixed with peppers and of course garlic and ginger. I think eggplant is one of those intimidating items to cook, like beets and gourds. Beets take awfully long to cook/bake and stain your fingers if you don’t wear gloves. On the other hand, golden/yellow beets don’t stain but still take long to cook. Gourds are not an easy thing to slice (unless you buy them pre-cut). I am stubborn and never buy pre-cut because I like to torture myself? 🙂 Sometimes you have to use the Jedi mind trick and just say “You will not intimidate me”. It might work but not if the particular gourd or beet is strong-minded. Enough small talk, let us begin.

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The arrowroot (an alternative to cornstarch) is not supposed to be there. I guess I was thinking of something else while I was preparing the stuff for this dish. But, hey, feel free to use some if you like. I picked up some hot peppers from the Farmers Market. The one next to the eggplant is cayenne, next to that is Hungarian hot wax, then jalapeno, then poblano. I couldn’t decide which one to use so I used ’em all:) I also used black garlic, which you don’t see here because I decided to add it during the food prep.
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Unfortunately, I could not get Japanese eggplant so I used regular. Japanese eggplant absorbs sauces more, doesn’t have as many seeds and has thinner skin. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, place some foil on a baking sheet with a bit of oil drizzled on and go grab those eggplants. Cut the eggplants in half but don’t go all the way through the skin at the bottom. Place the eggplant cut side down and roast for 15-20 minutes. I would suggest roasting for a bit longer until they are somewhat tender so that when you add it to your wok or skillet, it doesn’t take too long to cook. You might like your eggplant to have more of a bite rather than very tender and that is entirely your preference.
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While the eggplant is roasting, combine a tbsp of rice wine or dry sherry (I happened to have Mirin, a rice cooking wine), 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce and 1 tbsp of soy sauce (I used Tamari). Tamari is a Japanese form of soy sauce, has a darker color and richer flavor than Chinese soy sauce and has little to no wheat. I don’t have an issue with gluten and nothing against soy sauce but I happened to have that in my fridge.
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Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch squares. What I usually do with firm or extra firm tofu is to take it out of the bag, put it in a plate covered with a paper towel, put a paper towel over the tofu and place another plate, upside down, on top. Then put something heavy on it, can of chickpeas for example. I leave it for a few hours or until I am ready to use it. This way, when you stir-fry it, it will be nice and crispy on the outside as most of the water will have been drained. . For this dish I only placed paper towels and no weight. I also drained the tofu on paper towels after I cut them.
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Chop up some sweet pepper.
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Add the hot peppers. Make it as hot as you can handle! I removed the seeds and only used about a third of each hot pepper.
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Once the eggplant is cool, chop into 1/2 or 1 inch pieces. I chose to chop them; however, you can follow the instructions in the recipe and slice them.
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Make sure your wok or skillet is hot, add a tbsp of oil, swirl it around and add the tofu. Let the tofu sit for 30 seconds to sear and then stir-fry for 2 minutes. I left them for a bit longer until they were nice and brown.
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Minced garlic, ginger and I added black garlic. If you are adding this, slice or chop before you put it in your wok. Black garlic has twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic. It is tender and does not have the strong smell of regular garlic. It also has a caramelized, rich taste. I buy mine from Trader Joe’s. I realize it might be an acquired taste; however, you never know unless you try this forgotten garlic.
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I know the wok doesn’t look very pretty but it’s a wok. Just imagine smelling the garlic and ginger 🙂 Put the tofu aside, add another tbsp of oil to your wok and add your garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds.
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Throw in the eggplant and peppers, season with salt and stir-fry 2 minutes.
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Add the tofu back in the wok and stir-fry another 2 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. I stir-fried mine for much longer. Taste and add more salt if needed.
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Gobble it up with rice or noodles. I made basmati rice, drizzled some toasted sesame oil and sprinkled some sesame seeds.

Recipe slightly adapted and taken from NY Times Cooking

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 pound Asian eggplant (I used 2 regular medium sized eggplants)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry 
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, rice bran oil or canola oil
  • ½ pound firm tofu, cut in 1/2-inch squares and drained on paper towels (I used extra firm)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced (I added black garlic (2))
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I did not add this)
  • 3 bell peppers of varying colors
  • 1 Anaheim pepper (I used fresh cayenne, poblano, jalapeno and Hungarian hot wax)
  • Salt to taste

PREPARATION:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score down to but not through the skin. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, lightly oil the foil and place the eggplant on it, cut side down. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin begins to shrivel. Remove from the oven, allow to cool until you can handle it, and cut in half along the score down the middle of each half, then into 1/2-inch slices
  2. Combine the rice wine or sherry, the hoisin sauce and the soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil and add the tofu. Let it sit in the pan for about 30 seconds, until it begins to sear, then stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until lightly colored. Transfer to a plate
  4. Swirl in the remaining oil, then add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds. Add the peppers and eggplant, sprinkle with salt to taste and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Return the tofu to the wok, add the hoisin sauce mixture and stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the eggplant is tender and infused with the sauce and the peppers are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and serve with rice, grains or noodles

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