I bought an eggplant. It was local, of course. Because it was the only local item at the farmer’s market, I snatched it up, cradled it like a baby for a few seconds, and proudly put it in my shopping cart. This was before I remembered that I’m not a fan of eggplant (that “local” sign gets me every time). I’ve had it before. Breaded and fried in the ubiquitous Eggplant Parm. Or hidden in a veggie Panini. Each time I’ve been unimpressed.
I vowed that my local eggplant was going to be an excellent addition to dinner, so I did what anyone who doesn’t know what to do with eggplant does to eggplant: I grilled it. Cut it in slices and put it over fire with some other veggies and chicken thighs (yum). Grilled eggplant turns out to be pretty tasty, especially when doused with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, and olive oil.
Herein lies the conundrum: leftovers. What does one do with half of a grilled eggplant? After checking the fridge to see what other ingredients I could use, I turned to my life coach and main problem solver: google. After searching for eggplant, portobello, and pasta, I was rewarded with a recipe from Serious Eats, a food blog. Conundrum solved. Thank you once again, google!
Miraculously, I pulled together this pasta easily with what was already in my larder (larder is an amazing word). I adapted the recipe a bit, so here’s my version:
1 medium eggplant, cut into large cubes (mine was already cooked so I just cubed it up)
1 pound pasta (I used penne, but the original recipe recommends rotini, and I concur. It would have been better with rotini!)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 generous pinches red pepper flakes
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Juice from one lemon
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
Freshly ground black pepper
[This is where Serious Eats gives a nifty way to cook eggplant, using the microwave to pre-cook. Mine was already grilled, so I skipped this step. Check out this link to see their method.]
Cook pasta according to al dente instructions on box. Make sure to salt the water liberally. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
While pasta cooks, heat olive oil and butter in large skillet over high heat until melted and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms begin to brown (about five minutes). Add the red pepper flakes. Toss in the eggplant to warm through. Add garlic and thyme, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Add cooked pasta to sauce, adding extra cooking liquid until sauce reaches desired consistency. (The sauce will not be thick, but it will be yummy.) Serve with a generous portion of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
This recipe was fresh, lemony, and bright. I will make it again, but next time I’ll add more red pepper flakes!