Putting food on the table is an obvious highlight point of the day for someone like myself and no doubt someone like you as well if you find yourself here with frequency (waves hi). Even if it’s just for me, I enjoy the passage of raw product from thought to nourishment, however long it might take. Actually, I enjoy it with a special heightened sense of gratification if I’m cooking for myself. In these stickier and brighter days, the ratio of effort to ultimate pleasurable experience is approached with a touch more consideration though. There is much to do in the long daytime hours of summer and the heat seems to pull at our focus on most days. The vegetables require less effort when they rise up out of our own dirt and we like to cut to the chase as far as meal semblances go anyway. The season is bright, it warms us to the bone, and it provides immensely, but it is also here and gone like a flash of lightning.
I’ve been working on all manners of things with intensity as of late–at the restaurant and on some creative projects. It feels like I’m always frantically jotting something down so that the next step/movement is easier. It keeps me in the realm of the future-possible and I’m all the lighter for it. My love and I have been planning his birthday weekend (oh lordy can’t wait), as well as a very rustic camping trip for the beginning of August and I caught myself uttering something to this effect: “Well yeah, it’ll be your birthday and then there’s a week of stuff, we go to that concert and then we go camping and then summer’s basically over.” And I mean… that isn’t true of southern Ontario as far as actual weather is concerned. September is stunningly beautiful here. But that feeling, the way we carry ourselves with less weight because it all just comes together, it seems to blow over like the intensity of a summer storm. Once in the thick of it, blinding light + black everywhere, and then the quiet of a movement gone.
It seems even more important to feel your feelings and wrap yourself up in what’s happening within arm’s reach.
So in terms of an actual meal and day-to-day living, this means that I’m relying on strong, very flavourful + easy sauces, as well as trusted techniques for more basic foodstuffs. Flicks of the wrist, a few chops and retrievals from the fridge are enough for dinner out of necessity. They have to be. Sauce at the ready, good vegetables, tasty staples and 10 minutes at the grill is the long and short of this particular dish. I had been thinking about homemade teriyaki and some charred-up eggplant for a while, but many recipes for the much-loved sauce are all salty soy and brown sugar (and sometimes starchy filler things). I love salt (like, true love 4 ever kind of love) and sweet things, but I wanted this to be a bit higher vibe with all of the punchy flavour still intact. I consulted a few books and rustled up this balsamic + honey/brown rice syrup-based mix that fills the role pretty wonderfully. Not authentic. Not even concerned. Just tasty. The rice that I serve it with is all herb-flecked with lots of delicious summery add-ins. Lime, chilies, shallots, cashews, scallions, sesames and more importantly, it’s cooked with a knob of coconut oil for that tropical fragrance. This is a strategy I always fall on for lovely brown rice. The aroma is lush and the fat helps to separate the grains a bit. The confetti tangle of garnishes really makes this dish for me.
So just like that, with a scrap of somewhat scattered forethought, dinner is ready in the great outdoors. We’re full, but still vibrant because of it. Hope you’re all savouring these days, staying hydrated and being kind to yourselves and each other. xo
STICKY TERIYAKI EGGPLANT WITH HERBED CASHEW COCONUT RICE
Print the recipe here!
NOTES: Tofu, tempeh, portobellos and any other protein/highly absorbent vegetable you could find would be equally good in place of the eggplant.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/agave nectar
splash of GF tamari
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
white parts of 2 green onions, roughed up with the back of your knife a bit (save green parts for the rice)
1 tsp miso
1 tsp mirin
eggplant + herbed cashew coconut rice ingredients:
2 eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed
1 slice of fresh ginger
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + extra for the grill
fat pinch of sea salt
2 cups filtered water
juice of 1 lime
drizzle of grapeseed oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
green parts of 2 green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 sprigs basil, chopped
2 sprigs mint, chopped
1/3 cup toasted cashews + extra for garnish, chopped
small handful black sesame seeds
1 chili, thinly sliced (optional)
more salt + pepper
handful of sprouts/micro greens (optional)
Make the teriyaki sauce: combine all of the sauce ingredients except for the miso and mirin in a smal saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the miso and mirin until the miso is fully dissolved. Set sauce aside to cool.
Place the eggplant slices in a large colander. Season the slices liberally with salt and toss them around to ensure even contact with the salt. Let the eggplant drain in the sink for about 10 minutes. Pour out any excess water and place eggplant slices in a ceramic dish. Cover the eggplant with 1/2 of the teriyaki sauce and allow it to marinate while you prepare the rice.
Place the brown rice, ginger slice, coconut oil, salt and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the rice to a boil and simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Scrape rice into a large bowl and allow to cool for a bit. Once adequately cool, toss the rice with all of the remaining herbed cashew + coconut rice ingredients, reserving some of the herbs, shallots, cashews and seeds for garnish. Check the mix for seasoning and adjust. Set aside.
Preheat your grill to high and brush it with some coconut oil. Place the marinated eggplant slices on the grates. Allow them to develop char, about 3 minutes, and then flip the slices over. Brush the grilled sides with extra teriyaki sauce. Once the other side is charred, flip the slice sover once more and quickly brush the other side with teriyaki sauce. Remove slices from the grill and serve with herbed cashew coconut rice. Garnish with remaining herbs, nuts and sprouts.