Eggplant and Shishito Pasta
Translated and adapted from http://www.sakinet.com/tabete/cooking44.htm
I suppose the majority of the dinners I prepare would fall under the category of “fusion”: Western-style pasta dishes made with Japanese ingredients. This particular dish melds the fall flavors of shishitou peppers and eggplant in a tomato-based sauce. Shishitou is a green-colored pepper grown in Japan. It’s not terribly spicy and is a little bit sweet, not entirely unlike what we refer to as a green pepper in English.
The original version marks most of the amounts of the ingredients as “to taste,” but in my version, I’ve written out how much I prefer. Feel free to adjust the amount of pepper, shishitou, and bacon to your taste.
160-200 grams of penne (May substitute spaghetti.)
3 strips of bacon or thinly sliced pork (optional)* I recommend 豚ローススライス (buta loosu suraisu, sliced pork loin).
1 medium eggplant/aubergine (なす nasu)
3 shishitou (ししとう)
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
½ tsp. of pepper
½ tsp. of salt
A pinch of dried or chopped parsley
For the sauce
1 can of “whole tomato” 完熟ホールトマト (kanjuku houru tomato)***
1/2 tsp. dried basil (the 2.5 ml spoon); 1 tablespoon if fresh
1/2 tsp. oregano
A pinch of salt and pepper
1. First, make the tomato sauce. Pour the can of “whole tomato” into a frying pan or small pot. Cut the tomatoes into chunks with a fork and knife. (Be careful not to scratch the pan if you’re using a nonstick frying pan.) Add oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce over medium-low to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add basil, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. Boil the pasta according to the directions.
3. While the pasta is boiling, wash the eggplant and slice it into half-rounds. Leave the skin on. Wash the shishitou and cut it into rounds. Discard the caps. You don’t have to remove the seeds. Mix the eggplant and shishitou in a small bowl. Add pepper and salt and toss.
4. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Slice the bacon or pork into 2-cm pieces. Add to pan and cook through.**
5. Add the vegetables to the pan and stir-fry until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft.
6. Add the tomato sauce and cooked pasta, then stir everything together.
7. Before serving, sprinkle grated cheese and chopped parsley on top.
Goes well with red wine.
Buy too many eggplants? Here is a simple guide to blanching and freezing your extra eggplants. Remember, Japan doesn’t do a lot of out-of-season food, so you can save some eggplants for winter this way.
Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and is in love with eggplants.
*Vegetarians may omit the pork or bacon altogether. Or, if you like, you may substitute firm tofu 木綿豆腐 (momen toufu). Squeeze the water out of the tofu with a paper towel, then brown in a frying pan. Do this BEFORE you cook the eggplant and shishitou in olive oil, then add to the vegetable mixture at the same time you add the tomato sauce.
**Fresh cheese is best, but in rural Japan, you may not be able to get this. Kraft Parmesan works just fine as a substitute.
***I prefer to use the type that actually has whole tomatoes and cut up the tomatoes with a fork and knife before making the sauce. However, the diced variety of “whole tomato,” 完熟カットトマト. (kanjuku katto tomato) works equally well.