ALMOST IN SEASON
The challenge with writing in-season recipes is that often produce peaks so quickly. By the time I've discovered a new favorite way to cook something and want to share it in the next month's newsletter I've missed the window! Asparagus season ends as quickly as it came, or cherries fade away from markets. I bought an eggplant last week, out of season but I had a hankering, and realized it was probably a good thing that I found a great new way to prepare it before its in its prime so I can make this over and over when the time comes.
I actually bought two eggplants, marinating the first in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and basil to grill up with bread and eat alongside feta cheese. It's the perfect summer dish (or when you have a late spring heatwave and want to pretend its summer). I realized that one eggplant was plenty and so stashed the second one in the fridge and made this really delicious pasta sauce later in the week with some other sad crisper drawer veggies. The recipe calls for eggplant, but suggests you can use zucchini or cauliflower, and it was so so good and the best way to use up some odds and ends.
You basically cook eggplant (or zucchini, cauliflower or broccoli) until it softens, then add just enough stock to allow it to bubble away and fall apart so it becomes a savory pasta sauce. The recipe I read urged the cook to get the seasoning right, ensuring there was the right amount of salt, and I wholeheartedly agree. You can add red chili flake for some heat, and I topped the pasta with a good mound of grated parmesan.
Spaghetti with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Sauce
By Francis Lam, found on www.thewednesdaychef.com
- 1 lb. eggplant (or zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower) cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed (left whole-ish, not minced)
- 2 springs of thyme, chopped
- 1 c. chicken stock, veggie stock, or water (I used my favorite bouillon)
- 2 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes, minced (I didn't use and was still great)
- 6 basil leaves, sliced thin
- salt and pepper to taste
- red chili flake to taste (optional)
- parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 lb. spaghetti (or bucatini)
Lightly salt the eggplant slices and let sit for 20 minutes. Then, pat each slice dry with a paper towel and cut into large chunks.
Place garlic and olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan and turn the heat on to low. Once you can smell the garlic and it is sizzling a little, add the eggplant and stir it around in the olive oil to coat. Then, gently increase the heat to medium high and add the chopped thyme. Cook, stirring a bit until the eggplant becomes translucent and starts to soften. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then turn the flame down to medium low.
Cover with a lid, and leave it slightly ajar to let some steam escape. Let the sauce bubble and simmer away, stirring every few minutes so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. After about 20 minutes check the eggplant, and once most of the liquid has evaporated and the eggplant is soft, mash everything with a fork (especially those garlic cloves!). Adjust the seasoning, being sure to salt the sauce enough.
Toss the sauce with the cooked spaghetti, and a little bit of the starchy pasta water. Add the basil, sundried tomatoes if using, stir, and top with parmesan cheese.