Eggplant Grilled with Miso

Dengaku is a Japanese grill-style that uses sweet miso. The grill-fire brings out a toasted caramel quality in this perfect set-to-make side-dish or appetizer. As one of the best plates at the Wooden Spoon restaurant in Escondido they actually char the cut side of Eggplant. This method also works for tofu.
Yield 4 servings

4 Japanese eggplants (tops trimmed, sliced in half, lenghtwise)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for brushing

Dengaku miso
100 g (3.75 ounces) hatcho miso (red miso)
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sugar

Finish (all optional)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
4 sprigs green kinome leaf
1 tablespoon grated ginger, to serve

1 Soak the eggplant in cold water for about 10 minutes, to remove some of the bitterness.
2 Dengaku miso: With mortar and pestle, grind miso, sake, miso, sugar into a smooth paste.
3 Lightly score the cut surfaces of the eggplant in a cross pattern, then brush with a little oil.
4 Skewer the eggplant with long metal skewers and grill over hot coals for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is browned, softened and cooked through. (or roast the eggplant in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes.)
5 Brush roasted eggplant with a thick layer of the dengaku miso and return to grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until miso is toasted and fragrant. Remove skewers.
6 Optional finish. Scatter eggplant with sesame seeds, or place a sprig of kinome into the center of each eggplant. Serve with a little grated ginger, if desired.

notes Kinome is the young leaves from the prickly ash plant. There is no substitute for kinome, however a related flavor that can complement sweet miso can come from finely sliced chives or spring onions.

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