Dengaku and Oshitashi
Sweet, salty, boozy dengaku —- broiled miso-glazed eggplant, tofu or sweet potato, is a classic Japanese bar snack usually served on skewers. Here, I go with summer-fresh eggplant and make it more than a morsel, pairing it with another fab Japanese starter, oshitashi, sesame-spangled spinach salad. Both are quick to make, plant-based, oishi (Japanese for delicious) and oil-free — just what Esselstyn orders. Add brown rice and you’ve got dinner.
- 1/3 cup white miso fermented soybean paste*
- 3 tablespoons sake or whiskey
- 3 tablespoons mirin Japanese rice wine**
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave
- 1 eggplant or 4 long slender Japanese eggplants, sliced into narrow strips
- I know I know, this seems like hardly any dressing for a whole lotta spinach. Wait. The spinach cooks down to nothing and the minimal amount of dressing gives you maximum flavor.
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1 pound spinach
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
In a small saucepan, heat miso, sake and mirin over medium heat. Stir well for 3 or 4 minutes, or until it comes together to make a creamy sauce. Add honey or agave. Stir to combine and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, place eggplant strips on a baking sheet and place right under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and broil another 2 minutes. Watch to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Remove eggplant from oven and paint with miso sauce. Broil for another 2 minutes or until miso is bubbling and eggplant is lacquered and luscious.
Remove eggplant from oven and set aside.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in sesame seeds and toast, for just a minute or two. Set aside.
Set fresh spinach in a colander in the kitchen sink. Pour boiling water over the spinach. It will turn bright green and utterly collapse. Let drain and cool.
In the meantime, in a small bowl, whisk together mirin, soy sauce and rice vinegar.
Squeeze spinach to rid of all excess water. Chop coarsely and fluff with a fork. Add dressing and give it a gentle mix.
Serve dengaku atop brown rice with spinach on the side. Garnish the whole shebang with toasted sesame seeds.
*Available at Asian markets and natural food stores. White miso is actually golden and while plenty salty, is less salty and assertive than red or brown miso.
** Available at Asian and gourmet markets and natural food stores.