Twice-Cooked Eggplant with Cilantro-Sesame Pesto

When people say that they don't like eggplant, I tell them they just haven't tried my eggplant. Eggplant chunks are first roasted for a lightly caramelized flavor, then finished in a wok with a myriad of Asian flavors. Dark purple globe eggplant works well here, but the narrow Japanese variety is my preference because it is sweeter.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 2 hr (includes infusing time)
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Roasted Eggplant

1 1/2 pounds Japanese eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cilantro-Sesame Pesto

2 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled

2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (see Cook's Note)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha-Orange Mayonnaise

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie (see Chef Talk, below)

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (see Cook's Note)

2 tablespoons packed cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted (see Cook's Note)

Directions

  1. 1. To roast the eggplant: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. 2. Toss the eggplant with the oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on an 18-by-13-inch half-sheet pan. Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely. (The eggplant can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours.)
  3. 3. To make the pesto: With the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube of a processor to mince it. Add the cilantro, lemon juice, sesame oil, and sesame seeds and process until pureed. With the machine running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube to make a smooth sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The pesto can be covered tightly and stored at room temperature for up
  4. to 4 hours.)
  5. 4. To make the mayonnaise: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside for up to 1 hour.
  6. 5. To finish the eggplant: Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl the wok to coat the sides. Add the eggplant and spread it out in a single layer. Let cook until the underside is seared, about 1 minute. Stir-fry until hot, about 1 minute more. Remove the wok from the heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the pesto, the pine nuts, the cilantro leaves, and the sesame seeds. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with the mayonnaise, and serve hot, with the remaining pesto passed on the side. (Leftover pesto is delicious stirred into plain steamed rice or used to flavor vinaigrette.)

Cook’s Note

To toast either sesame seeds or pine nuts, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds (or pine nuts) and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 1 minute for the seeds or slightly longer for the pine nuts. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely. Chef Talk: Kewpie Mayonnaise Kewpie is a brand of Japanese mayonnaise with a creamy texture and less tangy taste than American mayo. It is sold at Asian markets and online.

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