This is the kind of meal that I generally don’t even consider sharing here, not for its lack of merit but because I wonder if you would be interested in it at all. But somehow when I do share a dish like this that takes mere minutes to put together, you seem to like it and it makes me happy because this is the kind of simple food that my husband and I default to after weeks of travel, consecutive days of eating out or just plainly when we don’t feel like making too much effort in the kitchen.
I usually come home to a hungry husband on Monday nights. There’s no time to sit and unwind; once I walk through the front door I put down my bags, take off my shoes and make a beeline for the kitchen. Last night was no different. While my husband carried on with the Directv agent and argued about which party should pay for our malfunctioning [rented] receiver (I’ve had this same conversation with them, too) and later threatened to cancel our service altogether (I’ve heard this before, too) I shopped the refrigerator for a meal I could easily throw together, as in 15 minutes or less. It was nearing 6 pm. Old habits die hard and as was habit for my parents when I was younger, I also like to serve dinner by a certain time.
I had cooked red rice, Chinese eggplants and a fresh jar of sambal oelek in the pantry. I remembered how much we enjoyed this pasta dish with roasted eggplants and shiitake mushrooms sautéed in the same chili paste and decided that it should work well, if not better, with rice. I cooked the eggplants in some olive oil, garlic, a splash of soy sauce and a heaping tablespoon of sambal then fried the rice in garlic and oil in the same skillet (I removed the cooked eggplants first). I prepared a condiment of vinegar, mashed garlic and soy and dinner was ready.
It didn’t take long for my husband to reach for seconds so before both rice and eggplants were history, I quickly put together a plate to share with you, too. There’s no need to use red rice–feel free to use brown or white rice–but I do highly recommend using Chinese eggplant if you can find it. In my opinion, it tastes better than its American counterpart (the globe variety). I’ve used the latter for years but lately I’ve been buying their longer, slimmer Chinese cousins and I have to say I prefer them these days. If you can’t find them (I picked mine up at my local Asian market), this dish will not suffer at all. You will still have a tasty, balanced meal in no time flat.
- 2 Chinese eggplants, cut lengthwise in 2 inch pieces (mine were fairly large)
- 1 heaping tablespoon sambal oelek
- ¼ cup olive oil and/or cooking spray
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- red rice (about 2 cups cooked for 2-3 people)
- **For the condiment***
- 1//4 cup of vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- Splash of soy sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the eggplant pieces. They will absorb a lot of oil. Cook them, stirring occasionally until the sides are slightly caramelized. You can also spray the eggplants with cooking spray to aid in the browning process instead of adding even more oil. Add 2 cloves of garlic, sambal and the soy sauce and cook for just a minute longer. This should take no more than 5-6 minutes.
- Take the eggplants out of the skillet, set aside and cook the rice.
- Add a little more oil to the skillet, then the last clove of crushed garlic. Cook for 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant and add the rice. Stir fry for about 3-4 minutes, add a splash of soy sauce, stir into the rice and turn off the heat.
- To prepare the condiment, combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Arrange the rice and eggplant on a plate and drizzle with a teaspoon or two of the vinegar dipping sauce. Serve.