Kitchen Witch - Black magic

I will never command you to do anything in the kitchen. I may gently coax, cajole and persuade, but command I will not. I'll try to get you excited about making your own stuff rather than the store-bought version of things like chicken stock, cranberry sauce or chip-dipping salsa. I'll wax philosophical about the merits of free-range birds, and I'll encourage you to try an apple from the farmer's market just once. But then I have to let the propaganda go; after all, a cook's gotta do what feels right and what works, according to personal lifestyle, time constraints and taste buds.

Except when it comes to eggplant.?

The rules get broken, the manners dismissed, and I tell you like it is.?

If you've always screwed up eggplant and you want to change your life, listen to me carefully.?

Go out and buy a jar of black bean-garlic sauce, a Chinese ready-made condiment available in both Asian groceries and mainstream supermarkets. Turn up the oven to 400. And let's get busy.?

A salty, pungent concoction of fermented black beans, garlic, soy sauce, cornstarch and a few other things (but no MSG), black-bean garlic sauce is the answer to your eggplant prayers. I know all about the debate over whether or not to salt eggplant, how to keep it from absorbing oil and why it often tastes like nothing. I don't really know why any of that happens, but I hear about it all the time.?

Something unexplainable happens to eggplant when it gets slathered up with the sauce and a small amount of sesame oil. That stubborn flesh goes weak in the knees and surrenders to the mysterious aura of this Chinese sorceress.?

Now step on it. Eggplant season is nearly over, and you wouldn't want to miss out on a miracle, would you??

4 thin, small eggplants, sliced in half, lengthwise (choose Italian or Asian varieties)?
? ? 2 teaspoons black bean-garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee is a popular brand)?
? ? 2 teaspoons sesame oil?
? ? Optional add-on: Sliced sweet and hot peppers?

Preheat oven to 400. With your hands, mix the sauce and oil so that they evenly coat the eggplant. Place in a roasting pan and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

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