Serves 6 / According to Chinese legend, deliciously rich black forbidden rice was considered so rare and nutritious that only the emperor was allowed to eat it. Look for it prepackaged or in bulk bins. Serving tips: Mix these versatile components together and rebake in casserole form, or serve individually with other dishes..

1 cup black forbidden rice
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 small eggplants (about 11/4 pounds)
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
4 tablespoons water
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or more fresh ginger juice (squeezed from about 1 1/2 inches grated fresh ginger)

Almond Cream Sauce (makes 2 3/4 cups)
1 cup raw almonds
2 cups water
1/4 cup garbanzo bean miso
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Wash rice while bringing water up to a boil. Add rice and sea salt to boiling water; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all liquid is gone, 45 minutes. Do not stir.
2. Cut eggplants into 3/4-inch cubes. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add sesame oil
and eggplant; toss to coat. Cook until well sealed and brown, about 20 minutes. In a bowl, mix tamari, rice vinegar, mirin, water, garlic, and ginger juice. When eggplant is very well cooked, stir in tamari mixture. Cover skillet and cook until liquid is mostly absorbed and eggplant is as smooth as butter, about 20 minutes.
3. To make sauce: Pulse almonds in a blender until they turn to meal. Add water and blend on high for 2 minutes. (If you prefer a smooth sauce, press mixture through a strainer, removing about 3/4cup of fiber.) Add miso and blend for
1 minute. Pour into a small saucepan and heat quickly, then reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. Add black pepper while heating.
4. Serve rice, eggplant, and almond sauce layered or separately.

PER SERVING: 308 cal, 46% fat cal, 23g sat, 2g sat fat, 0mg chol, 11g protein, 48g carb, 8g fiber, 710mg sodium