I love to eat, and I love to eat it all. I am one of the lucky few who have no real food restrictions (although I don't love ripe papaya or deep dish pizza). But I'm also a born and bred Californian dedicated to doing what I can to reduce the negative environmental impact I have on the world. As it turns out, what we eat can have major environmental repercussions. Opting for meat-free meals a few times a week is not only good for personal and financial wellbeing (veggies are good for your heart and meat is expensive!), but is also hugely beneficial to the environment. So if you're looking to shake up your meat-free routine, this Sautéed Asian Eggplant Recipe may be what you're looking for.
When I went to the Farmer's Market about a week and a half ago, I got a huge stock of fruits and vegetables. (With the help of my Debbie Meyer's GreenBags, my produce is still going strong and we've been eating a TON of veggies.) I even opted for some eggplant, which strangely enough, I generally equate with cooler weather despite its peak season being July-October. Honestly, I've only done a few dishes with eggplant in the past. Eggplant Parmesan and Baba Ghanoush have been my two (recurring) eggplant experiences. And while they're delicious, I wanted something a little different and a little bit lighter.
The Recipe Inspiration
Joe and I have a tendency to favor Asian-inspired flavors, especially when it's hot outside. There's something refreshing about clean, dairy free, spicy, high acid dishes. While researching ginger-soy eggplant recipes, I came across one from BudgetBytes, which is a long-time favorite blog of mine. If you haven't read it yet, give it a shot! Her recipes are always delicious and are totally achievable on just about any budget. Anyway, while I made a few tweaks to Beth's Soy Glazed Eggplant , I credit her with giving me the idea to move forward with some ideas that I had brewing but wasn't totally confident about. Thanks, Beth!!
The Asian Eggplant Sautee resulted in a spicy, salty, umami bowl of comfort that checked every craving box I had. The eggplant became so tender it almost melted in my mouth. The peanuts and green onions gave excellent crunch, contrasting the softness of the rest of the dish. The sauce consisted of salty soy, piquant ginger, spicy ghost pepper, sweet agave, warm garlic and a dash of rice wine vinegar for acidity. I reduced it down until it got thick and sticky, coating all of the eggplant yumminess. It was wonderfully filling, super healthy, and good for the environment to boot.
The Case for Meat-Free Meals
While I love to eat meat, the stuff we get at the store or market requires far more environmental inputs (e.g. water, feed) and creates far more harmful environmental outputs (e.g. greenhouse gases) than vegetarian options. Because of this, Joe and I try to eat meat-free meals at least twice per week. The Asian Eggplant Sautee was born out of our environmental commitment.
As of 2017, the US food system contributed 15% of total national greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study published in January 2020 found that by adopting a vegetarian diet just twice a week could reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions contribution by 10%. Even more stunning is the finding that if everyone in the US adopted a twice-a-week vegetarian lifestyle, US greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of Sweden and Norway's combined emissions. That's the equivalent of over 10 BILLION gallons of gas saved. It's like taking 19.5 MILLION cars off the road every year, for an entire year.
Do Your Part!
If you are able, consider adopting a meat-free meal at least once a week. Not only will the environment thank you, but your pocketbook will, too. Did you know that food is the third largest expenditure in Americans' budgets? And that meat products (beef, pork, poultry, fish and other meat) generally makes up about 20% of a typical American food budget? Y'all can save money and stay well fed if you cut back just a little bit!
Swapping in other sources of protein like beans, eggs, or tofu can hugely reduce your costs. Am I advocating that you go full-on vegetarian or vegan? Not if you don't want to! I did a six-month stint as a vegetarian followed by a six-month stint as a pure vegan. I couldn't hang, y'all. I'm just here to advocate for the idea of cutting down on meat consumption. Do it for your own personal and financial health, as well as the health and wellbeing of our planet! This eggplant recipe is a super easy place to start making a difference.
Spicy Ginger Soy Eggplant Sautee
- Cube eggplant and put in colander. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt and toss to coat. Let rest 10 minutes to remove excess moisture.
- Heat 2-3 teaspoon olive oil in sautee pan until shimmery. Using a tea towel or paper towel, blot off moisture from eggplant. Working in three (or more) batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, sear all four sides of eggplant, then remove from pan. Repeat with oil and eggplant until finished.
- Combine tamari and next five ingredients in now empty sautee pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce is thickened. Toss cooked eggplant in sauce to coat.
- To plate, divide rice between two bowls. Divide eggplant on top of rice. Add as many toppings as you prefer. Enjoy!