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Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Sesame Miso Sauce
We like the small Japanese variety for this delicious first course.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons barley miso
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice wine)
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
4 Japanese eggplants (about 1/4 pound each)

Directions:
1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire.
2. Combine all ingredients except the eggplants in a small saucepan. Blend well with 2 tablespoons of water, and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Simmer for 3 minutes. Strain and reserve.
3. Leaving the stems on the eggplants, make 3 long incisions in each one, drawing your knife through the opposite end of the eggplant. fan each eggplant out, so that the 4 leaves are connected at the stem.
4. Brush the eggplants with a little miso, and grill 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until eggplant is tender. Remove from grill, place each eggplant on a plate, and serve at room temperature with miso sauce on the side.

Asian eggplant is one of the most succulent varieties; usually, it's sweeter and less bitter than its Western counterpart. You'll know it in the market by its different shape and color: much thinner and much lighter purple than Western eggplant. There are Chinese eggplants and Japanese eggplants; the former are a little larger and a little lighter in color (some consider them a little sweeter as well). Neither needs initial preparation (like salting or parboiling) before grilling. We like the small Japanese variety for this delicious first course. The miso sauce is creative, not traditional—it incorporates some non-Japanese ingredients—but it is hauntingly delicious. Serves 4 as a first course