September 7, 2008

Paying it forward, vegetable style

I so appreciated the recipe suggestions you all gave me early in the summer, back when I was drowning in greens.

So I thought I’d return the favor, now that my CSA has been looking more like this:


This is loosely based on a recipe from The New Vegetarian Epicure, called “Summer Vegetable Pasta.”

I call mine “Christ! Eggplant Again?!? Pasta”. This recipe has many virtues - one is that it uses up a lot of those late-summer vegetables and, more importantly, it's the one and only eggplant preparation I have ever found palatable.

Servings: Will thoroughly sauce 1 lb. of pasta. Because I know how many of you appreciate getting thoroughly sauced.


Prepare this stuff first, through Step 2:
- 1 or 2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- 2 large onions, chopped medium

While the eggplant is draining and the onions are caramelizing, you can prep this stuff:
- A few tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 red, yellow or green peppers, cored and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, saving as much juice as you can, or 2 small cans diced tomatoes in juice
- 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- A few tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley

Accompaniments: A nice shaving of parmesan, a crusty baguette, some good wine and the foxy companion of your choice would not be unwelcome additions.


Step 1: In a large colander, toss the cubed eggplant with a few pinches of kosher salt. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes.


Step 2: Meanwhile, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy sauce pan or dutch oven. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and golden. 15-20 minutes.


Step 3: Squeeze excess liquid out of eggplant.

Step 4: When onions are almost completely caramelized, increase heat to high and add sliced peppers and squeezed eggplant to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant and peppers have softened and have little brown spots.



Step 5: Reduce heat to medium, clear out some space in the bottom of the pan, drizzle in a bit more oil and add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir until fragrant, about thirty seconds.


Step 6: Add chopped tomatoes with their juice to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through and tomatoes have just started to break down. Turn off heat.



Step 7: Add olives and fresh herbs to pan and stir just to combine.

Serve sauce tossed with chunky pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni, etc).


Ingredients: As with my knitting, actual quantities and measurements are basically just estimates. Unlike my knitting, there’s really no way to screw this up, as far as I can tell. The key thing is just to cook the onions for a very long time, the peppers and eggplant until just tender and the tomatoes hardly at all. Then throw in the extras, like basil and olives and cheese, at the last minute.

I’ve made it with: 1 white eggplant, 3 peppers (1 red, 1 green and one big mild chile), and 4 fresh tomatoes…. OR … 2 eggplants (1 white, 1 purple), 2 green peppers, and 2 fresh tomatoes…. OR ….2 eggplants (1 white, 1 purple), 1 green pepper, and 2 small cans diced tomatoes in juice (1 can regular and 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles). All were delicious.

Step 1: I’m told by reliable sources that salting and draining eggplant this way improves both its flavor and texture. I don’t actually like eggplant at all, and I love this dish. Which makes me think salting and draining the eggplant is a magical, mystical step that should not be skipped.

Step 2: Caramelizing the onions over low heat takes for-freaking-ever, but is totally worth it. They add a really nice sweetness to the sauce.

Step 4: The original recipe has you cook the onions in a separate pot from the eggplant and peppers, presumably so the onions don’t overcook. I’m lazy and prefer to use as few pots as possible, so I just cooked it all together. But do keep an eye on the onions to make sure they don’t overcook at this point.

Step 6: If you are using canned tomatoes, add them a few minutes earlier than you would the fresh tomatoes - before the peppers and eggplant have completely softened. Canned tomatoes need to cook a bit longer than the fresh ones.


Karen said...

Okay, I don't like eggplant either. Icky. But this recipe sure does sound good. And if you don't like eggplant but like this, it sounds like I need to stop being a baby and try it. :) Or, I could drink all the accompanying wine first (following the thoroughly sauced instructions) and then I won't even know there is eggplant in there. LOL

Kristy said...

It looks yummy. And nice photo essay, too!