My friend Yvette works with The Hubs and lives on the west side of San Antonio. She keeps a garden filled with gorgeous produce—over the summer she shared all manner of tomatoes, plus some peppers and herbs—which makes me envious of her ability to get this heavy Texas soil to produce anything edible. I’ve had no luck with that at all, and I consider myself to have something of a green thumb. But what I’m really jealous of, in a most unattractive way, are Yvette’s chickens and the cute little eggs they produce. I have serious, serious chicken envy. I’m so covetous of them that, as my mother would say, I could just spit.
Yesterday Yvette sent my husband home with a sweet little basket full of Thai eggplant and adorable eggs. After I recovered from a fit of jealous rage (mostly directed at my neighbors, who have been known to complain about noise from the elementary school down the street and would, I’m sure, have something to say about a yard full of chickens), I remembered a recipe I’d tried last summer. At that point, I didn’t know much about eggplant. I didn’t know, for example, that it comes in different shapes and colors. The eggplant I was familiar were large, dark purple and funny shaped. I’d always found them kind of intimidating. But eggplant comes in all shapes and colors: green, white, light purple, round, oblong, tear-shaped. Yvette sent me eggplant that were small, round, and mostly white with just a hint of lavender shading. They reminded me of the little Thai eggplant I’d received in a Greenling box last summer.
So I decided to make the stir fry recipe that had come in my Greenling box last year—with a few modifications, of course. But what to serve with it? At the grocery store today, I walked past the seafood counter and suddenly had a craving for salmon. Poached salmon may be the easiest thing in the world to make, and it’s full of omega-3 fatty acids (good for the heart, and for cancer protection.) And thus, a dinner menu was born. Along with a plan to let the kids have pizza for dinner, since they are not fish people.
Thai eggplant doesn’t have to be peeled before cooking—just cut off the tops and bottoms, slice them into thick rounds, and slice the rounds into quarters. Last time I made this stir fry, I used a serrano pepper that had come in my Greenling box; the heat of the pepper was a nice balance to the mild flavor of the eggplant, but I didn’t have a hot pepper on hand and didn’t think to buy one at the grocery store. Leaving it out this time really let the taste of the garlic and basil shine through. If you like spicy food, though, go ahead and add a diced serrano or jalapeno when you’re sautéing the garlic. The fish sauce called for in this recipe is available in the Asian foods section of larger grocery stores, and it’s a must. That flavor really can’t be replicated.
As far as the salmon is concerned, remember that fish cooks very quickly; 5 minutes of poaching time will do the job. Just mix together a cup of orange juice and half a cup of soy suace; let the salmon marinate in this mixture for half an hour. When you’re ready to poach the fish, slice up a lemon and place the slices in the bottom of a shallow pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add a cup of water, half a cup of wine (or lemon juice, if you prefer), and place the salmon on the lemons skin-side down. Give it a good sprinkle of garlic power, put on the lid, and and allow the salmon to poach for 5 minutes. When it’s done, the salmon fill flake easily with a fork and be light pink all the way through.
Thai Eggplant Stir-Fry
1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 small Thai eggplant, cut into chunks
1 cup water
2 tsp. fish sauce
½ tsp. granulated sugar
10 large basil leaves
Heat the canola oil over high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until just lightly browned. Add the eggplant and saute for a few minutes, then add the water to the pan. Cover and allow everything to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the eggplant is cooked through.
Stir in the fish sauce and sugar. Place the basil leaves on top of the eggplant, allowing them to steam and wilt into the pan. (You can chop up the basil if you like, but I left it whole.) Toss everything together one last time and serve immediately.