Sunday, August 24, 2008

Veggie Love

Tonight's meal used up a bunch of veggies, and I've got major leftovers. I love when that happens.

I wanted to use up the eggplant, tomatoes, and romano beans, so I set out to find some recipes.

Since I had tried grilled eggplant a few weeks ago and sauteing is my favorite way to cook, I started to look at pasta dishes that called for some slicing and dicing. Several happened to include tomatoes, but since I didn't have enough tomatoes (or time) to make sauce, I zeroed in on recipes that included them diced.

This penne with eggplant, tomato, and basil recipe met all of my criteria. While the directions seemed a bit daunting, it wasn't very complicated. Neither was the garlicky romano beans side dish that I made at the same time.

The key was to prepare all of the food beforehand, which I don't always do. But I'd recommend doing that with these recipes, especially if you make them together, because you won't have much time to peel or chop anything once you get started.

For me the key ingredient in the pasta was the crushed red pepper flakes. I probably shook in a bit more than 1/4 teaspoon, which enhanced the flavor and complimented the overwhelming amount of eggplant.

The beans were slightly crunchy and refreshing. The infused oil didn't have much flavor, but I thought the beans tasted great on their own anyway.

Penne with Eggplant, Tomato, and Basil (from Taunton Press)

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
1 medium eggplant (1 lb.), cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 6 cups)
Kosher salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (We had a white onion, so I used that instead)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes; more to taste
1-1/4 lb. tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 2-1/3 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
3/4 lb. dried penne rigate (I used rigatoni)
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or ricotta salata

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until shimmering hot. Add the eggplant and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium, return the pan to the stove, and add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, the onion, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is tender and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and another pinch of salt, and cook until the tomatoes start to break down and form a sauce, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Return the eggplant to the pan, add the basil, and cook for 1 minute more to let the flavors meld. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve a small amount of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Put the pasta in a large bowl and toss with the eggplant mixture. If the pasta needs a little more moisture, add a splash of the pasta water. Taste and add salt if needed. Put the pasta on a platter or divide among shallow bowls and finish with a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle the Parmigiano or ricotta salata on top and serve immediately.

Garlicky Romano Beans (from

1 cup olive oil
a large sprig of fresh rosemary
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with flat of a knife
Heat oil, rosemary and garlic in a skillet (the larger surface area heats the oil more evenly and quickly) until the rosemary sizzles.
Turn off heat and let rest for 20 minutes.
Remove the rosemary and garlic.

Salted water to cover
1 pound beans, ends snapped
1 tablespoon garlic and rosemary-infused oil
1 tablespoon good bread crumbs (tonight, a Swedish rye)
Salt & pepper

Bring the salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes or until done but still bright green. (They cook faster than regular green beans.) Drain and toss with the oil and bread crumbs. Season to taste. (I left out the bread crumbs)

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