Wednesday 8 July 2015

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook.

If you remember my post from 2 weeks ago about my struggle and failure to cook for one and you decide to keep reading this, you'll find out I still haven't mastered it. BUT what I have done is found a delicious pasta sauce recipe with a rich eggplant and sun-dried tomato sauce which a pretty funky name... 'Let my Eggplant go free'. Yep that the name of the recipe.

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

While Tristan was away this time I made a conscious decision to not let me self get into a frump about cooking for one. However I made enough dinner to feed about 4 people but only me to eat it. It meant lunches for the next couple of days so I wasn't complaining and it also meant I got to pig out on a huge bowl of spaghetti while watching 'Married at First Sight'.

This recipe has been around for a few years now but it's been recently re-published in the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook by Kristen Miglore. It is another recipe I first saw on Luisa's blog The Wednesday Chef and then put two and two together while flicking through the cookbook, it's not like you come across a recipe name like that every day. So when I saw it on her blog and in Food52's book I just had to make it.

I'm not sure mushed the eggplant enough as mine looked a little different. I also didn't have dried tomatoes or basil so I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and parsley since our parsley plant has gone bonkers. I've been putting parsley in everything lately... a bit of neglect and tough love and it's thriving!

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

First I started off salting the eggplant slices which is something most recipes tell you to do when cooking eggplant but I've always skipped this step and never done it. I did however do it this time. I salted my eggplant then jumped in the shower and by the time I was out and dressed again it has been about 20 minutes and the chopping board was full of water. So there is a purpose to this madness of salting. Next I diced it and through it in to the pan with what looked like a huge amount of extra virgin oil but within seconds all the oil was soaked up and the cubes of eggplant looks like they were dry frying.

Sometimes I don't understand the next step in a recipe if I haven't made it before until I see it happening. I have to trust the recipe which can be daunting to see what happens. Fry the eggplant until translucent huh? but it's eggplant. After not too long I knew what the recipe meant... sometimes you have to have faith but I have had experiences where I have screamed at books doing exactly what it said and ended up with a lumpy burnt mess. So it's a little hit and miss making something for the first time but theres nothing like a little adventure in the kitchen!

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

After adding some water to the eggplant and letting it simmer away until there was almost no liquid left I mushed it up using a potato masher and the back of a spoon, added the parsley and sun-dried tomatoes. I served it with a pretty decent serving of parmesan I sat down to some trashy tv and a huge bowl of pasta on the couch while the cat snored next to me.

This sauce is rich without looking rich. When you start fill your fork with a huge mouthful of spaghetti and try and get a bit of everything on it, all the extra virgin olive oil you put in the pan first is still there in the silky eggplant sauce and coats your lips like a good lip gloss. The herbs thrown in at the end give it a really fresh vibe which I think it needs, maybe even a squirt of lemon juice on top next time. It's not the prettiest but its definitely a winner if you love eggplant, just keep in mind this serves 4 people not 1 person alone with their cat.

'let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti

Recipe by Francis Lam from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook. - with my variations below.
Serves 4
450g eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
2 springs thyme or oregano, chopped - I used 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes, minced - I used ones which were kept in olive oil
6 leaves basil, sliced thinly - I used a handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
450g spaghetti
- Lightly salt the slices of eggplant and stack them back together. Let sit for about 20 minutes or so.
- Put the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. 
- Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. 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 (this is where your oil will look like it has disappeared). Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add the thyme or oregano and stir. 
- Cook until the eggplant started to turn translucent and softens. Add the water/stock and let it come to a boil then 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. If it does start to stick add a splash more water/stock.
- After about 20 minutes or so, the liquid in the eggplant pan should be mostly evaporated and the eggplant should be soft and melting. Mash it with a fork or spoon (I used a potato masher), and adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Meanwhile get the water on a boil for your pasta and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Make sure your spaghetti doesn't sit around waiting for you sauce to cook so try and time it according to the packet instructions to give you an idea of when to put it in the boiling water but always taste to check when cooked.
5. Toss the eggplant mush with the al dente spaghetti. Stir in the minced tomatoes and basil (or parsley). Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you dare and serve with some finely grated parmesan cheese and extra cracked pepper.

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