September 21, 2012
“Mama, guess what my favorite food is.”
“Hm. Are we talking a sweet food or dinner-y food?”
“Dinner-y foods are better.”
My heart flutters with pride. “Hm. Not soba…”
I remember that the hungry boy sometimes confuses entire cuisines with specific dishes. I try another tack.
“Your favorite food is… Japanese food!”
“YES! I love it.”
Last year, when the hungry boy turned 5, the hungry papa and I treated him to a dinner at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. It was a little bit of a splurge, but we knew he’d be in heaven. We ordered tons of stuff and told him he could eat (or not eat) whatever he wanted. We even let him order soda. (They make a homemade and totally wholesome ginger ale; we allowed him think that it was scandalous.)
We feasted on pork and lotus root, miso and soba, raw fish and tofu. The hungry boy loved every bite. Well, except for the spinach. It was a thrill. For all of us. The only problem is that our favorite spot is now also his favorite spot. We’d hooked our little epicurean on some seriously fancy victuals.
Now, every time we offer to take the hungry boy out to eat, he wants high end Japanese. Apparently, our local sushi joint just won’t do “since they don’t make their ginger ale homemade or even have that lotus stuff in miso.” I can hardly blame the kid. He’s got excellent taste.
Thankfully, some of the foods at our favorite Japanese restaurant are refined versions of homey Japanese dishes that I can approximate. This is one. It’s no thinly sliced pork belly and lotus root in miso, but it’ll do. Until he gets a job.
Miso Baked Eggplant
(can be shared with children 6+ mos)*
serves 4 as a side
5 small Japanese eggplants, tops trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
Sesame oil for brushing
1/2 cup white miso
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Togarashi, for garnish (optional; I love this shichimi togarashi)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, score the cut side of the eggplant with deep cross-cross cuts (see picture above). Brush the eggplant pieces entirely with sesame oil, skin side and all.
2. Place eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes.
3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan set over medium low heat, whisk together miso, sugar, mirin, vinegar, zest and lemon juice. Heat through until the mixture just begins to bubble. Be very careful not to let the mixture boil.
4. Remove eggplant from oven and switch to broil. Brush the scored side of the eggplant well with miso mixture and broil for about 4-6 minutes, until the miso glaze caramelizes. Be careful: it will burn quickly. Remove eggplant from broiler and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and togarashi. Serve warm.
*Note: To serve this to very young eaters, be sure to cool the eggplant all the way before scooping the flesh from the skin. Puree or mash to desired consistency, with or without cilantro and sesame seeds, if using. Serve plain or with baby’s favorite whole grain. This makes a great first food!