Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Like a lot of people I know, I over buy. My shopping cart is always bigger than my stomach. I go to the Farmer’s Market every Sunday with the best of intentions. I will only buy enough to feed us during the week. No more, no less.
But the thing is, I haven’t quite adjusted to it just being me and Domenico at home. Before I know it I’m asking for a kilo of zucchini, while really, a half kilo will do us just fine.
And there’s also the going out thing. After so many years of eating both lunch and dinners at home, at least 5 days out of 7, I'm now on a different schedule. Days when I have tours, lunch is with clients. And then dinners - now that Domenico and I freed up from having dinner with children at home - are out a lot of the time too. (there is also EAT ROME to keep up to date!)
Which leaves me, every Saturday, trying to finish up the last week's bounty before starting all over again on Sunday.
I have to say, that this week I was pretty ahead of the game. I had already gone through the 2 kilos of chicory (what was I thinking?), 2 heads of lettuce, a bag full of green peppers and too many plums to admit to.
What I had left: A kilo of eggplant, 300 grams of fresh pasta and a nubbin of aged goat cheese. Not bad. And just the right ingredients for lunch.
When I had bought the almost too beautifully striated melanzane, I had envisioned some Ottolenghi inspired, vaguely middle eastern thingy. With that still in mind, I decided to transform the huge quantity of eggplant into a delicious, but light and minty, pasta sauce.
I didn’t really do much to it in terms of spicing things up. Some garlic, a bit of red pepper and - at the very last minute - a massive amount of freshly cut mint from the terrace.
Mint almost never turns up in Italian cooking, especially in pasta dishes. Nor does goat cheese. So, in keeping with the exotic theme, I grated the last piece of aged goat cheese my friends had brought me back from Corsica.
A note about quantities: yes, I’ve kind of inverted the ration of vegetable to pasta. There is usually more pasta than sauce in a traditional Italian primo. Instead, especially when I’m trying to eat lighter, I like to flip this around. While it still seems like a pasta dish, in fact, you are getting more vegetables in your bowl rather than pasta. But it still feels like pasta and so you don’t feel like you are depriving anyone of anything. (tricky, right?)
Also, using that amount of vegetables? Frees up my fridge just in time for another trip to the Farmer’s Market. To start all over again. Guilt free.
pasta with eggplant, mint + goat cheese
300 grams fresh pasta
1 kilo/ 2 pounds eggplants, cubed
6 cloves garlic
1 large bunch mint (about 1 cup leaves)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried hot pepper
1/2 cup grated aged goat cheese
Cut the eggplant into 1/2 cubes. I usually can never be bothered to salt my eggplant. I know I should, but I don’t. And so far, lightening has never struck
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add the eggplant and immediately stir to coat with oil. You will see that the oil will be absorbed by the eggplant. That’s ok. Turn the heat down to medium and let the eggplant cook. Eventually it will start to soften, and the oil will be released again.
Keep stirring things around. Since there is so much eggplant, it will take a while to cook down. Once the eggplant has begun to soften, (about 10 to 15 minutes) add the salt, garlic and hot pepper. Stir and let cook another five minutes, until you smell the garlic start to become fragrant.
You’ll notice that thing have probably started sticking to the bottom of the pan. At this point, add about a cup of water, and use it to deglaze the pan. Then put a lid on the pan and let the eggplant steam/cook for another 10 minutes or so, until really soft. Turn off heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until done (if using fresh pasta this should only take a few minutes)
Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water.
Turn heat back on under the eggplant, and add the pasta to the pan. Stir well, adding about half the pasta water. Turn off heat, and add half the cheese and half the mint, and a bit more of the pasta water. Stir. Add the rest of the mint, water and cheese, stir, and serve.