Betty Teller

Betty Teller columnist of “Amuse-Bouche”

Napa Valley Register file photo

I don’t know if it is the time change, spring fever or something else, but I’ve been making a lot of mistakes recently. My brain seems to have been on a vacation.

For example, last week, even though the scale was showing a stratospherically high number, I decided to go shopping for clothes.

What was I thinking? I somehow forgot about the evil, sadistic mirrors stores put in their dressing rooms for just such occasions.

When I’m at home, I have no problem with mirrors. The softly lit one in my closet is friendly and welcoming, a cousin to Snow White’s. It never criticizes me and would not dream of directly pointing out my lumps and bulges. If I put on something a bit tight, it just gently suggests that perhaps I should maybe consider wearing something else.

Store mirrors, on the other hand, are meaner than the meanest girl in your seventh-grade gym class. They never miss a chance to point out your shortcomings. Sometimes they even force you to look at your rear view.

And like mean girls, the ones in the stores I visited ganged up on me. One after another, under the merciless glare of blue fluorescent lights, they took delight in drawing my attention to the overwhelming evidence of the pounds I acquired over the winter.

My mirror at home had assured me that it was all muscle, which everyone knows weighs more than fat. But the stores’ reflectors were having none of it.

I slunk home, depressed. Instead of spiffy new clothes, all I had to show from my trip was the conviction that a diet was in my near future.

I couldn’t quite face the horror of that particular four-letter word (plus I had some delicious, high-calorie treats in the house that I had to gobble up before I could consider starting). So I procrastinated by indulging in some escapist entertainment.

And that’s when I made another huge mistake.

I tuned into reality TV, something I never do, as a rule.

I prefer my TV scripted, preferably by someone smart and/or funny. I make it a point to not watch any shows that feature real housewives, celebrities who are only famous for being famous, anyone who lives at or near the Jersey shore, scheming singles going on filmed TV dates to find a mate or castaways building lean-tos and eating bugs in a remote location.

But with this month’s impaired judgment, I decided to make an exception for a promising new series of shows. The stations advertised that they were being shown live and unedited, almost like news. So I thought I’d give them a chance.

I can’t believe I fell for it and got hooked. The shows were horrific, yet so compelling I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t tune in just once. Whenever they announced a new episode, there I was, glued to the TV.

They were fascinating, yet also complete junk.

And very low-budget. There wasn’t even any action. The actors just stood at podiums and lobbed nasty accusations at one another.

Yes, I told you my brain wasn’t working properly. I confess I made the mistake of tuning into the Republican presidential candidate debates.

I thought I’d end up an informed voter, but instead I just ended up an appalled one. I’m upset at how many precious hours I wasted watching those horrible people. There is something seriously wrong with every one of them. Rude, boorish, egotistical, narcissistic, petty … I don’t have enough negative adjectives in my vocabulary to describe them. Ugh. Double ugh.

What a nightmare.

I think I’ve got my brain working again, so I hope I won’t be making any further dumb mistakes like that this week.

I am happy to say, though, that I discovered one small upside to watching the candidates’ slugfests.

It turns out I’m not going to need that diet after all.

After seeing the debates, I completely lost my appetite.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

When the weather turns warm, I tend to eat less. So perhaps my loss of appetite this month is a symptom of spring fever, rather than a reaction to the political process — but I don’t think so. (Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the whole country is feeling slightly nauseous. If they keep this up, the politicians could inadvertently cure the obesity epidemic.)

Even when I’m not hungry, I crave vegetables — and this veggie dish is a keeper. I learned it in a Japanese cooking class I took recently at Napa Valley College and I’ve been making it ever since. It’s good both hot and at room temperature, so it’s as versatile as it is easy.

At the cooking class, we sauteed the eggplant in oil. It’s delicious that way, but eggplant is notorious for its ability to absorb vast quantities of oil, and I am at least pretending to try to lose weight, so I have lightened it up by baking or grilling it.

Serves 4

2 Japanese eggplants

Salt

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Canola oil

2 Tbsp. white miso paste

1 Tbsp. mirin (sweet cooking sake)

1 Tbsp. sake

1 Tbsp. sugar

Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Prepare the grill (medium hot or preheat the oven to 350 degrees).

Remove the stem and cap and slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a knife, lightly score the insides, without cutting the skin. (I use a paring knife to cut parallel diagonal lines in one direction, and then go back and cut perpendicular lines in the other direction, but you can do any pattern you like.)

Salt the eggplants lightly and set aside.

Make the miso glaze by thoroughly whisking together the miso, mirin, sake and sugar. (Some recipes say to heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar, but I haven’t found it necessary.) Set aside.

Blot the eggplants if the salt has brought up liquid. Brush them on all sides with canola oil, then place them skin side down, on a sheet pan if you are baking them, or directly on the grill. Bake or grill until they are cooked through. In the oven, this could take 15 minutes; grilling will be faster, so keep an eye on them. If you are grilling, turn them over when they are nearly done, to get grill marks on the cut side.

Move the pieces from the grill to a sheet pan. Spread the miso glaze fairly thickly on top of the cut side of the eggplant halves, coating them completely.

Place the pan under the broiler and broil for about 4 minutes, until the glaze is bubbly, but not burnt. (This is the only tricky part, as the sugar will burn if you leave it under for too long.)

To serve, slice the pieces diagonally in 1-inch slices and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Betty Teller finds our current politics so unappetizing that she expects to be a sylph by election day. Tell her your weight loss plan at amuse-bouche@sbcglobal.net.

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