Anise-Flavored Eggplant

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1 pound (about 4) Japanese eggplants
1 large onion
1 medium fennel bulb
1 tablespoon peanut oil
8 large cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tamari
salt to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh fennel leaves

Trim the ends off the eggplants and halve them lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into thirds, then slice each piece lengthwise into thick strips. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thin vertical slices. Cut the hard core out of the fennel, then cut it into thin vertical slices about 2 inches long.

Set a wok over high heat. Add the oil and swirl it to coat the sides of the pan. Add the onion and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the fennel and garlic, then gradually add the eggplant, continuing to stir-fry several minutes longer. Grind in the black pepper.

Add the stock and tamari and bring to a simmer. Cover the wok, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is thoroughly tender. Taste and add salt and more pepper if needed. Sprinkle in the fennel leaves just before serving.

Yield: Serves 4

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