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Cooking With Emoji: We're Taking Eggplant Back From The Bros

Last week, Amanda Hess at Slate laid out the evolution of a situation truly distressing to our food-loving hearts: Over the past couple of years, it seems, the purple, elongated eggplant found on the emoji keyboard on smartphones "has risen to become America's dominant phallic fruit."

As the music producer Diplo told Billboard earlier this year, the eggplant emoji is now "code for stuff" — male "stuff," that is. (It's also apparently his favorite emoji for this very reason.) And if you were to check out the hashtag #EggplantFridays (which we don't recommend), well, the last thing you'd find is a good recipe for ratatouille.

We here at The Salt decided we weren't going to take this lying down. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) No, sir! We're taking the eggplant back for its true intended purpose: cooking, and devouring.

Because let's face it: Raw eggplant is tough and bitter. But its flesh blossoms once it's sauteed, steamed, baked or fried alongside more emphatically flavorful ingredients.

To rescue the eggplant from the world of salacious sexters, we've turned to our emoji keyboards and conjured up a few recipes to highlight the, ahem, culinary attributes of this late-summer fruit.

Yu Ziang Qie Zi (Fish-Fragrant Eggplant)

Yu xiang — literally "fish fragrance" in Chinese (hence, the fish and nose emoji above) — is a sauce featuring a complex layering of flavors that is "a signature of Sichuanese cooking," chef and Chinese cookbook author Fuschia Dunlop writes.

On Andrew Zimmern's site, she offers a tempting-looking recipe for cooking eggplant in this heady sauce. It calls for soy sauce, hot Sichuan chili bean paste (fire), chicken stock and vinegar. (Yes, we're making that sake bottle and cup pull double-duty here. Humor us — it's not so easy cooking with emoji.) Serve over rice.

Steamed Eggplant With Sesame-Soy Sauce

There are lots of variations on this dish out there, but the basics are pretty simple: You start with an eggplant and slice it lengthwise into a few wide strips, then steam it for around 10 minutes or so. Then, prepare a mixture with soy sauce (there's our sake!), garlic (herb emoji — 'twas our best option) and sesame oil (seedling + sake emojis). The sauce needs something sweet, too — so how about honey from the honey pot? Once your eggplant is steamed, spoon the sauce over it and serve. What, you want clearer directions than that? Try this recipe or this one.

Eggplant Parmesan

Do we really need to spell this out? Serve with some good rustic Italian bread.

Bon appetit!

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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