Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shiitakes

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

A more-or-less traditional Sichuan preparation, creamy and delicious with soft-cooked eggplant, made crisp by the addition of sauted shiitakes. Substitute green beans for the eggplant if you like.

1/4 cup peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 cup sliced shiitake caps (reserve stems for stock or discard)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (optional)

11/2 pounds eggplant, trimmed, cut into 11/2-inch chunks, and salted, rinsed, and dried if you like (see To Salt or Not to Salt?)

1 tablespoon Chile Paste, or to taste (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 pound tofu, prepared by any of the methods in The Basics of Tofu or simply blotted dry, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil for garnish (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see The Nut and Seed Lexicon) for garnish (optional)

2 tablespoons minced scallion for garnish (optional)

Put half the oil in a deep skillet or shallow saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shiitakes and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and, a few seconds later, the garlic and the ginger if you’re using it. As soon as it sizzles, add the eggplant. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until the eggplant browns, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chile paste if you’re using it, along with the stock. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary to release any stuck bits of eggplant. Cook until the eggplant is really tender, 10 to 15 minutes more, adding a little more liquid if necessary (unlikely, but not impossible).

03.png Stir in the soy sauce and tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes; stir in the reserved shiitakes and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish as you like and serve.