The taste of Summer

Before we all say goodbye to summer and hello to pumpkin flavored everything, I have a new favorite recipe to share with you.  Noodles + mangoes + fried eggplant + onion & herbs + a sweet & spicy dressing = the taste of summer.

This delicious concoction comes from page 112 of Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  In his write-up, he says this dish has become his “mother’s ultimate cook-to-impress fare.”  Let the record show, it’s also mine—Scott told me he could eat this everyday if he had to.  Lucky for him, the quantities below make enough for six, so he often sees it for days in a row.

This recipe calls for ½ a fresh red chile, finely chopped.  I wish it called for more… I planted three pepper plants that have done better than anything else in my garden.  I’m trying to dry the extras now; if I’m successful, you’ll see that project up here soon.

Soba noodles with eggplant and mango

From Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • ½ cup rice vinegar (or sugar cane vinegar if you have it J)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (or just 1 if your cloves are big)
  • ½ fresh red chile, finely chopped (I used a whole)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Fried eggplant:

  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 eggplants cut into ¾ inch dice (I decided I like the long eggplants better than the round ones—they’re easier to fry if they’re in slices that are easy to turn.)

Remaining ingredients:

  • 8 to 9 oz. soba noodles
  • I large ripe mango, cut into 3/8 in dice or ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 2/3 cup of basil leaves, chopped (much less if you use Thai basil)
  • 2 ½ cups cilantro leaves (I use half this, or none at all)
  • ½ a red onion, thinly sliced

To make the sauce, gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add the crushed garlic, chopped chile and sesame oil.  Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

While the dressing is cooling, begin frying your eggplant.  In a large, non-stick skillet, add about a 1/3 of the oil to the pan (oil spreads better if the pan is warm), and then add 1/3 of your eggplant.  Every time I’ve made this dish, the quantity of eggplant has required three batches to fry them all.  Once they are golden brown in color, transfer them to a paper-towel lined colander and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Cook your noodles according to the directions, keeping a watchful eye on them.  You don’t want to overcook them.  After 6-8 minutes, they should be done.  Drain and rinse under cool water.  At this point, Ottolenghi wants you to let them dry on a dish towel.  I just leave them in a colander resting on the rim of the pan they were cooked in.

Cut up your mango, onion, and herbs if you haven’t yet.  My favorite way to cut up a mango is to slice it in half, as close to the pit as possible—same for the other side.  Then with my two halves, I make vertical and horizontal cuts, then invert the half and slice off the fruit from the peel.

Now, you’re ready to assemble.  In a large bowl—I actually use my multi-pot for this—combine your noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, onion and half the herbs.  At this point, you can either set it aside for an hour or two (any longer and I’d refrigerate it), or serve it right away.  When you’re ready to serve, add the other half of the herbs, stir well, then serve.  I’ve added fried firm tofu to this before, as well.  Lately though, I’m ready to get away from the stove after I’m done frying the eggplant.

The finished dish is what I imagine summer to taste like—a good reminder of the heat with refreshing elements to keep it from being overbearing.  I wonder if I could make this with fried pumpkin…

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