Sichuan Grilled Eggplant and Spinach Salad (version II)
6 Asian eggplants,each about 6 inches long, or 1 large globe eggplant, about 1 pound
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. If using Asian eggplants, cut lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick. If using globe eggplant, cut crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick. Lightly score the flesh with a large crosshatch pattern. Brush lightly on both sides with peanut oil. Place the slices on the hot grill and grill, turning once, until the slices are tender, spongy and have light grill marks, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool, then cut into strips 1/4 inch wide by 2 inches long. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 piece fresh ginger, 1 inch long, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil, or to taste
1/2 cup stock
For the Salad:
1 pound fresh spinach, carefully washed and stemmed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
For Dressing: In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the 2 tablespoons peanut oil. When hot, add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Stir in the salt, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and chili oil; simmer for 15 seconds. Stir in the stock. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Arrange the spinach leaves on a platter and set aside.
In a small, dry saucepan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Add the green onion, cilantro and cooled dressing to the eggplant and toss to mix well. Scatter the eggplant over the spinach, then refrigerate until well chilled. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds just before serving.
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