Rachel's Table

A Local Eggplant Conundrum

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:

Ingredients:

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!)

Kosher salt

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

Parmigiano-Reggiano

[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!

Delicious Conundrum

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11 comments

  1. Sound yummy. I love eggplant, but if you’re still unsure about it, try cutting it, then salting it, and letting it sit between clean dish clothes with heavyish books on top for about an hour. This pre- cooking step, takes our some of the bitter water out and makes the eggplant much tastier. 🙂 THanks for a great recipe.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Frankie! I will definitely try that next time. The serious eats recipe called for doing something similar, but using the microwave to precook and get some of that bitter water out. How do you deal with the skin? Mine got tough. (Maybe I should have peeled it. . .)

  3. john conner

    rachel, have enjoyed all your posts ?? is that the computer correct word anyway we had talked last week that i had some spinach and lettuce ready in the garden and would like to share with you if you want !! thursday afternoon would be fine just call me your gardening friend, john conner sorry to say i am not a fan of eggplant

    • John! I was going to call you this morning! I will be by this afternoon for sure. I’m so excited about the spinach and lettuce. 🙂 And yes, “posts” is the correct computer word. Haha! Eggplant is not my favorite either, but it was good in this recipe. 🙂

  4. An eggplant post! I knew I loved you.

    Frankly, I’ve never met an eggplant I didn’t like. Seedy or not seedy, big or little, purple or white. It has great qualities for regulating blood pressure (which I don’t need, but hey, can’t hurt). The best ones are plucked right from my yard — a zero-care yard edible and BEAUTIFUL purple flowers (which bumble bees also love).

    People always ask me, What can you DO with this thing? And I simply ask back, What can you NOT do with it? I’ve cooked with eggs, put it on burgers, layered it in lasagna, sauteed with curry, fried it with panko. About the only thing I don’t do is eat it raw, ’cause it’s just a tad bitter.

    Look up Baba Ghanouj. It is a tremendously versatile dish which makes people at pot lucks hover over the bowl with their pita chips going, “What IS this awesome stuff? It must be unhealthy…” as they devour it all in one sitting. When they find out who brought it (I’m the “veggie girl”), the jig is up. Seriously delicious. I roast mine in the oven, sprayed with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with cracked pepper and sea salt. (I will admit that I can eat a whole one all to myself cooked this way. Skins and all.)

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