Thursday Cooking Adventure: Eggplant Pasta Sauce

Okay I was thinking to start a sort of weekly feature and when thinking of what I’d like to make it about I immediately thought of all the many new kinds of veggies we’ve been getting thanks to our crop sharing adventure this summer and thought I’d start to share some of the many awesome recipes we’ve been trying out and some of the adventures in cooking that we’ve been having along the way!

I already have a few recipes I’ve posted like Corn Chowder (or better, “Cahn Chowdah”), Spicy Baked Shrimp, Lemon Poppyseed Cake and have even done the work of putting them all into one page (see the top header with the new page!)

Now I’ll work to share some of my other fun and tasty creations!  Bear in mind this is a cooking ADVENTURE.  That means it is like story time.  With a recipe at the end.  So with that set up to get you in the right mind-set I now bring you:

Today’s special adventure: Eggplant Pasta Sauce

Long, thin, white eggplant

This particular white color is what gives the "egg"-plant it's funny name. Supposedly.

Okay so in last week’s CSA box we got two long, thin, eggplants.  One a deep and beautiful purple, the other a waxy and name-sake inspiring white.

Neither Adam D nor I really knew what we should do with these lovely, but mysterious, new veggies.

Finally, yesterday, I decided to ask a co-worker, who suggested I try a Baba Ganoush.  Instead, while poking through recipes on the same site, I decided to go with an Eggplant Parmesan.  Cheese and eggplant and sauce, what’s not to love? The recipe seemed a bit involved and time-consuming but I figured if Adam D could start with the first few steps; I could finish when I got home.

Long, thin, dark purple eggplant

Long, thin, dark purple eggplant

Perhaps you can already see where this might be headed from the fact this recipe is called “Eggplant Pasta Sauce”.  Things did not go as planned.

The directions called for us to slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices and then coat them with salt and lay them out for an hour to “leech the bitterness” from them.

Now, Adam D had already tried a bite of them raw and declared they mostly had no flavor and a bit of a pickle-esque texture.  No bitterness to report.  However, he soldiered forth and proceeded to dutifully cut these long, thin eggplants into the requisite 1/2 inch pieces.

I think it might be important to note at this point that the images here on the right pretty closely represent the diameter of the two eggplants he was working with.  Not very wide.

Needless to say when I got home I found a cookie sheet, covered with paper towels and the now happily drying 1/2 inch cubes of eggplant that I was somehow next supposed to bread and fry.  Like cutlets of meat. You know, slices that might come from the usual kind of eggplant folks might think of when you say “eggplant”.  Those big, honking, 5-8 inch in diameter things.  I looked at those little veggie nub-lets and briefly considered proceeding with the next steps of breading and frying and almost as immediately thought: “Riiiight. I don’t think so.”

Adam D and I kinda stared down at the try of incredibly salty (despite a good rinse as suggested by the recipe) chunks of eggplant and tried to devise a plan of eatery attack.  I tried a bite of one.  VERY salty.  With a texture, as Adam had proclaimed earlier, a bit reminiscent of pickles.  Salty, salty pickles.

So, like any good woman who has been through a few years of what some refer to as “College Cooking Days” but what I think of as “Lazy Meal Nights” from way back; I resorted to an old standby: throw it into a pan with some garlic and other stuff to make a topping for pasta! Whoo!

I still had some grilled veggies left over from the party just a couple of days prior and had a frozen Polish kielbasa in the freezer.  So with a bit of my usual ingenuity (of the Star Trekkian “Make Shit Up As You Go Along!  If you Act Confident, no one will question it!” style), I whipped up what turned out to be a quite tasty, if odd, assortment of vegetables and meat in a tomato sauce over thin linguine that I will henceforth dub: Eggplant Pasta Sauce!

Today’s recipe: Eggplant Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 long, thin eggplants * cut into 1/2 in or so chunks.
  • A bunch of leftover grilled veggies (Squash, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Whatever you have really)
  • 1 can of mushrooms, drained
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 can of Hunt’s Four Cheese Sauce
  • 1 box of Thin Linguine
  • 2 tablespoons or so of Canola Oil (or Olive Oil)
  • 1 Polish Kielbasa, cut into about 1/2 inch slices

You can salt the crap out of your eggplant chunks as suggested by this recipe but likely they will be just as tasty (even tastier?) without the saline-overdose. Plus you could save like, an hour, by NOT doing this part.

  1. Add the oil to a warm skillet.
  2. Saute the garlic until you can smell its tasty aroma, adding some pepper (and salt if you don’t have uber-salty eggplant to add later)
  3. Add the onions and warm them until translucent
  4. Add the eggplant chunks and keep them going for a few minutes until the begin to be tender
  5. Add the canned mushrooms and cook until warm
  6. In a separate pot, put a salted bunch of water on to boil.
  7. Push the veggies to the sides of the pan (or remove entirely, but that makes another dish to clean so it’s up to you or whoever does the dishes!)
  8. Add the kielbasa chunks and warm those up.  Takes longer if it was originally frozen.
  9. Stir the veggies from the side (or those set in a bowl if you went that route) back in with the meat.
  10. Add the grilled veggies and warm them up too, feel free to mash the softer ones up a bunch so it makes a good filling texture.
  11. Add your sauce to the pan, stir until well mixed, then cover and simmer until the sauce and veggies all get a chance to meld together for a few minutes.
  12. While the sauce is “melding”; your water is probably boiling so add your pasta.  I usually break the long pasta in half so it is easier to stir (and then to eat later on!)
  13. Be sure to stir it up at the start so you don’t end up with one huge clump.
  14. Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and add a half stick of butter to the entire pot, mixing well until it is all melted.
  15. Serve the pasta with a good heaping spoon of the eggplant pasta sauce, perhaps some Parmesan cheese, and you’re done and ready to enjoy!  Goes great with some slices of rosemary & olive oil bread and fresh, crisp lettuce drizzled with Italian dressing!

I hope the adventure and recipe brings to mind the level of happy fun we had during the process and that you might even almost smell the delicious aromas that were in our house the night of this entire process.

As a bit of a disclaimer for this dish: I know how lucky we are to have had enough time on-hand to do this and thank the world for that small blessing!  I do know, however, that I’ve done similar “whatever I have on hand, mixed into sauce, over pasta” dishes before with far less time and they have been just as delicious too so don’t feel that you need lots of time to do this.

Also?  There is no “right” way to do these sorts of pasta sauce creations.  Add some kinda of meat if you love or need that protein fix (hot dogs work great, kielbasa, hamburger, left over versions of any of the aforementioned, etc).  Use whatever veggies are on hand, especially if they are left over since then they just need warming up!  Any canned sauce is great but if you need to use up some tomatoes you could even skip the can/jar of sauce and add a bunch of those to the mix.  It is really a forgiving cooking plan that I follow when I need to resort to these sorts of “stuff over pasta” meal nights.

Enjoy!

*One white, one dark purple.  Because they’re pretty that way.  Or that’s what you have on hand. You know, whatever really.

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7 thoughts on “Thursday Cooking Adventure: Eggplant Pasta Sauce

  1. The long, thin eggplants are Asian eggplants, and they’re really a very different (yet oddly similar) beast from the rounder European ones. For one thing, they don’t require salting like the round ones. For another, you will never get the size of slice you need for eggplant parmesan. The best use for Asian eggplants is more like the pasta sauce you created, or as part of a stir fry.

    But if you do get the European style eggplants in another box, do NOT skip the salting step. It really is important with them. Just put the slices (or cubes, whatever shape you cut them in) into a colander, salt generously, leave for about half an hour, and rinse really well before using.

  2. Actually, if the eggplant is young and smaller, you dont need the salting step.

    If you get a big ol’ honking eggplant that will slice well, rinse, salt, layer in colander, put a thick plate on top and a pan of water on top of that to press the slices. But you really don’t need to do this unless the eggplant is old and overgrown. check the seeds-are they white and soft, or firm and starting to get a different color than the flesh? Is there a lot of “string” in the middle, or is is mostly still the same as the outer part? If it’s not stringy or hard-seeded, you should not need to salt-press.

    (Rinse it after the salting step, too.)

    Another good thing to do with eggplant is just roast it. I cube it, mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, more garlic, some more garlic, and a thinly sliced shallot and wrap it up in foil and grill it. Or you can take the whole eggplant and put it on the grill, on high heat, until the skin is almost black. Cool and scoop out the meat, it should be very soft. You can then dress it with garlic and olive oil and eat it as is, or you can mix with tahini and spices to make baba ganoush.

    Your sauce sounds very good. I did similar not long ago. I love eggplant!

    • Buttercup (and Twistie!) thanks for the heads up about still needing the salt step for bit eggplant. If we get one of those this week I may just try out that Parmesan recipe for real!

  3. I love the long thin eggplants for grilling. Wash, cut off tops, cut in 1″ long pieces. Coat lightly with oil. Grill about oh, 2-3 minutes on each cut side, maybe a little longer, depends a lot on the eggplant and how hot you’re running your grill, until it has nice grill marks on the outside and is all cooked and squidgy on the inside.

    Toss with soy sauce and a little sesame oil, maybe a little garlic.

    This is the dish that convinced my husband that maybe eggplant WAS really a food :).

    (If you don’t have a grill you can roast or broil the chunks, but just make sure you’ve oiled them first!)

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