The Home Cook: Emeril’s Sesame Eggplant

Let’s be honest, when it comes to eggplant there are two types of people—those who sing its praises from the depths of their kitchens and those, like myself, for whom the mere sight of this oblong purple vegetable makes them squirm. For years, the only eggplant dish I would even approach with a ten-foot pole was my Italian grandmother’s eggplant parmesan. (She’s ninety-seven and still double-fries the eggplant slices before drenching them in sauce and cheese—it’s a family secret, but don’t tell her I told you that!) Given my deep-seated childhood aversion, you can imagine how surprised I was to find out that the Ingredient of the Month was none other than the pesky eggplant. But if Emeril loves it, it can’t be that bad, right? Plus, I’m always up for a challenge! 

Luckily, there’s nothing challenging about the Sesame Eggplant recipe from his wonderful book 20-40-60. Even I finished it in 20 minutes without a single kitchen disaster and little mess to clean up afterward. In fact, not only is it easy, but it’s also delicious. (Yes, this former eggplant hater called an eggplant-centered dish delicious!) I had two helpings of it with dinner last night and am considering making it again this weekend for some out-of-town guests. I think I’ve been converted! 

If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. And while you’re cooking up an eggplant storm, tell us, what was your least favorite vegetable when you were growing up? Do you still steer clear of it or, like me, have you discovered a new recipe that enhances its flavors and learned to put your past judgments aside?       

Sesame Eggplant (Makes 4 Servings)
Prep time: 11 minutes | Cook time: 12 minutes | Total: 23 minutes

  • 1⁄2 cup peanut oil
  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 3⁄4-inch dice
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 green onions, bottoms minced and tops sliced, reserved separately
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    photo © Steven Freeman, 2009

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dark Asian sesame oil

1. Heat 1 ⁄4 cup of the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. When it is hot, add half of the eggplant and 3 ⁄4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and softened, stirring as necessary to promote even browning, about 5 minutes. Add half of the green onion bottoms, 1 tablespoon of the garlic, 1 ⁄4 teaspoon of the black pepper, 1 ⁄4 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper, 1 ⁄2 tablespoon of the sesame seeds, and 1 ⁄2 tablespoon of the sesame oil. Toss to combine. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

3. Combine both batches in the same pan, add the green onion tops, and heat briefly until warmed through, 1 minute. Serve immediately.

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