Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Puree

I loved the idea of Francis Lam's eggplant sauce for pasta, however this didn't come out quite as I imagined. It was thick and rich--not bad, but not addictively good, and had the unfortunate eggplant appearance rendering it unfit for company. If I make it again, I will try fresh oregano, as the original recipe called for and omit the basil and tomatoes, as I didn't feel the basil added anything and the sun dried tomatoes went unnoticed.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

2 medium eggplants, cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I mean just flatten them, don’t take out your aggression on them)
2 T oregano
1 cup stock
2 tablespoons sun dried dried tomatoes, minced
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded
Salt and pepper
1 pound long pasta – spaghetti, linguini, whatever floats your boat

• Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let it all hang out for about 20 minutes. This will season it and water will drip out, allegedly removing the bitterness, if it’s there. They also say to choose eggplants that are dense and heavy for their size to make sure it’s not bitter.

• Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. You’re just trying to get them friendly with one another, so don’t worry if nothing happens for a while. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add your oregano and stir. When the eggplant is turning translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick.

• Meanwhile, bring water to boil, salt it, and cook your pasta.

• Check on your eggplant. Is the liquid mostly absorbed or reduced? It should be after about 20 minutes or so. Does it look good and mashable? Great. Mash it up with a spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Isn’t it great? Silky smooth and garlicky and eggplanty and humming with oil? And totally stress-free! Amazing.

• Drain your perfect al dente pasta and toss with the eggplant puree. Stir in your minced tomatoes and basil and gild the lily with some more oil. Celebrate your new friendship.

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