Sometimes I hear things from friends and family along the lines of, “Your cooking is so adventurous!” Or “Teach me to cook, how do you do it!?” I’m no gourmet. Most of the things I make take substantially under an hour to prepare. And most importantly, my number one mission is usually: Use up ingredients that are on hand.
Case in point: I had cucumbers from the neighbor, a leftover bell pepper from grilling the weekend before, an eggplant from my farm delivery box and pea pods from a vegetable crudites spread from the weekend before. I came up with Thai Marinated Cucumbers, Thai Basil Eggplant, and shrimp with pea pods all served with brown rice.
I previously made the shrimp with pea pods recipe successfully with chicken and it really is super easy. The only thing I wouldn’t consider a pantry staple is the pea pods, otherwise most people have the rest of those ingredients on hand (you keep your ginger root in the freezer, right? And grate directly from the root while frozen?). The cucumbers I will save for another post but were ridiculously easy. What I will share today is this simple and quick Thai Basil Eggplant recipe that I actually used an existing recipe for. I know, practically unheard of for me. My only complaint was that there is a lot of “Take this out of the pan, put this in the pan, take that out, put the first thing back” and I’m not sure how necessary it was. To make it simpler, just make sure that you have one or two bowls on hand to switch things between. For example, if you cut your eggplant and put it aside in a small bowl while preparing the other vegetables, just keep that bowl handy because it will be used for the cooked eggplant, too.
Water, brown sugar (or cane sugar), soy sauce and fish sauce. You can find fish sauce in the Asian section of most supermarkets these days, mine is a massive bottle from the Asian super-duper market. This stuff smells awful. Do yourself a favor and don’t smell it. Add it all to the cup and stir then set aside.
Mix about two tablespoons or so together with some water in a small glass jar that your husband constantly makes fun of you for keeping around even though you use it all the time for things like this and making him salad dressing. Set aside.
Throw your eggplant into the hot wok with some hot sesame oil and stir it around. Keep those bad boys moving every so often until they start to brown. Occasionally run over and fan the smoke alarm with a towel while cursing because this clearly isn’t burning. Open some windows. When the eggplant is brown you move it back to the container it was in.
Try not to eat the browned eggplant before moving on to the next steps.
Add a little more oil and your onion and bell pepper to the pan. I think the recipe asked to have these cooked separately. Not sure why. Probably if you like crunchier bell pepper. I like it softer so I just went for it. I’m not going to show you this cooked because I was fanning the smoke detector again even though nothing was burning. And the fan thing above the stove was on. Besides, you’re smart, you know what onions and bell peppers look like when they’re cooked, right? Good. Remove them from the pan.
Add a little more oil and your garlic and chiles. I don’t have the fancy Thai chiles so I just used a little red pepper. Yes, I do save the little containers that come with delivery pizza. We don’t order pizza much but these things have lasted forever! After the garlic and chiles get fragrant– no you don’t remove them– you throw the bell pepper and onion back in.
Let these guys get all coated in flavor and cook until everything is to your desired level of crunchiness or lack thereof.
Throw the eggplant back into the mix and stir everything together. These steps are moving pretty quickly now so this next one is an action shot (read: blurry).
Add the sauce in and stir everything together. You’re going to let it simmer shortly with the sauce in there. Then you add some of the cornstarch/ water mix to thicken the sauce up. If everything is still a little too crunchy for your liking, continue to simmer until desired crunch factor is obtained.
A minute or two before serving throw in the chopped basil and stir together. This is not fancy Thai basil. This is some of the ever abundant basil from my garden.
This is some good stuff and just as good or better than the stuff you get from the delivery place! This, alone, over rice would be delicious, but as I mentioned, I had other things to use and also served this with shrimp and pea pods.
There’s our small plates in action again! Our dinner was a little rice, lots of vegetables and a serving of protein. Definitely hit the spot.
What is your favorite dish to get from the Thai or Chinese place? Have you ever tried to make it yourself?