In the summer months, eggplant becomes the go-to meat replacement for many vegetarians. We slice it into thick rounds and grill it up like a burger, we roast it and turn it into a batch of homemade eggplant meatballs, and we even make veggie bacon with it. So, recently when I saw Steamy Kitchen’s recipe for stuffed miso eggplant filled with a mixture of ground beef and chopped eggplant, it made me wonder what other ingredients I could use to replace the meat. Eggplant would have been my first choice for a meat substitute, but a double eggplant filling just wasn’t going to work.
Some might turn to tofu or maybe even mushrooms to replace the meat, but I have a secret weapon in the kitchen that I use in instances like this: raw walnuts! Just like when I made Asian lettuce wraps a while back, the walnuts in this dish really give that meaty texture to the stuffing. And because walnuts have a mild flavor, they just take on the taste of the seasonings in the dish.
These beautiful Japanese eggplant boats are stuffed with sauteed onion, eggplant, garlic, and walnuts that are seasoned with yellow miso, mirin, and tamari. I decided to add an extra layer of flavor and pile a fresh salad of tomatoes, green onions, and Thai basil on top, along with a drizzle of homemade miso dressing. The salad is totally optional, but it really takes this dish from delicious to spectacular; plus, who doesn’t love a little pop of color on their plate?
For the eggplant:
- 2 large Japanese eggplants
- 1/2 medium white onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped raw walnut halves
- 1 tablespoon yellow miso
- 1/2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon mirin
For the miso dressing:
- 3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons yellow miso
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
For the tomato salad:
- 12-15 cherry tomatoes halved
- 10-12 Thai or regular basil leaves chiffonade
- 2 green onions light green and bottom dark green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Make the stuffed eggplant:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise, starting at the stem. Use a spoon to scoop out the inside of the eggplant, leaving a little less than 1/4 inch of the flesh around the edges. Coarsely chop the flesh you scooped out, then place it in a large bowl. Transfer the eggplant shells to the baking sheet.
- Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, add the chopped onion and garlic to the mixing bowl and stir to combine with the eggplant. Swirl the oil into the preheated pan and add the eggplant mixture. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add the walnuts and cook for one minute more. Stir in the miso, tamari, and mirin and allow to cook for another minute.
- Fill the eggplant shells with the eggplant-walnut mixture, dividing evenly between the shells. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the eggplant shell is tender and cooked through.
Make the dressing:
- While the eggplant is in the oven, prepare the miso dressing and tomato salad. In a small bowl combine the honey, miso, rice vinegar, and mustard. Whisk until combined; set aside.
Make the salad:
- In a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, basil, green onions, and salt. Set aside.
- Top each eggplant with a quarter of the salad mixture and drizzle the miso dressing over the top.