Foodie Friday: Eggplant Pasta with Tomato-Basil Sauce

This dish could also be called “what you make and serve with lots of wine when you realize both you and your husband have forgotten your own wedding anniversary.”  True story.

Not that it happened to me or anything.

So, should you find yourself forgetting a very important event and needing to impress, atone, and accompany a good bottle of wine with something delicious, this is what you want to be making.   Plus, with the impressive amount of garlic that goes into this recipe (it mellows out, I swear), you’ll want to spend time with no one but a near and dear one, love of your life or not–if for no other reason than you’ll both share the memory (and garlic haze) of this dish, and no one else will.

As usual:  don’t sweat the quantities.  I don’t.

Go hunt and gather:

  • 6 cups eggplant (about two medium beasts), cubed into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes (bigger is fine, but I prefer it small so I can get eggplant in every bite) and peeled if you want (I peel about half of it)
  • 4 cups tomatoes, diced (or two 14-oz cans of tomatoes, diced)
  • 8 cloves-1 head of garlic, minced or bashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 box chunky-shaped pasta (I like farfalle best)
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese (or bocconcini, or a piece of a bigger log of fresh mozzarella)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. parsley, minced (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced or cut into long thin strips
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Now don the apron and get your cook on:

  • Set a large soup or pasta pot of salted water to boil.
  • While the water comes to the boil, mix the eggplant cubes with the egg until coated.  I usually start with one egg and add another if it needs more coating.
  • Heat 1/2 Tbsp. of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot but not smoking, add enough eggplant to cover the pan and let it sit and crisp for a couple of minutes.
  • Once it’s crisp, turn and allow to cook on the other side, then remove to a plate or cookie sheet lined with paper towel and giving it a sprinkle of salt.  Repeat with the rest of the eggplant.
  • Now here comes the rest of the multi-tasking, with the making of the sauce:  while the water is coming to the boil and the eggplant is frying, heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a saucepan.
  • Add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes, but don’t let it color too much.  Then add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper (red and black) to taste.
  • Cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken up a bit and all the flavors have melded.
  • When the water comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions.   When it’s ready, reserve a cup of the boiling water and drain, then put the pasta back in the big pot.
  • Add the sauce and toss, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if needed.  Then toss with the eggplant.
  • Top with generous slivers of basil and fresh mozzarella cheese.

Serve with wine and contrition and eat with abandon–after all, it’s not every day you forget your own wedding anniversary.

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(Not) Having an Easter Food Baby Part III: Easter Feasting and The Aftermath

On Sunday, I decided that our Easter dinner was going to contain 75% of the vegetables in our fridge, after the last few days of starchy and fried goodness. I mean, I can eat as much as the next girl for a day or two, but no way can I eat like I used to for three days straight.  I’m relieved that I can’t (though you know I took great pride in being a human vacuum cleaner and eating as much as the boys, back in my day)–and so glad I still have the receipt from when I housed 33 pieces of sushi in Vancouver in 2004, as a trophy of my near-competitive-eating glory days.

I chopped and sauteed and stirred and baked, and was 100% thrilled with the result of my vegetarian pastitsio (Greek or Middle Eastern baked dish with pasta and a bechamel sauce):

Out of the oven....

And onto my plate

I defied the evil heat (95 F at 10:30 am!) to cook for Easter Bunny Day (which I hope the rabbit appreciates).  I put together the sauce with lentils, eggplant, sweet peppers, onion, tomatoes, tomato sauce and plenty of garlic and topped it with a soymilk-based bechamel (with feta mixed in on the gentleman’s portion).  I have to give love once again to the Moosewood restaurant cookbooks–this Greek delight came from their Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates book, in a menu for Greek Easter, how fitting–for their spot-on and creative recipes.

After dinner and a suitable amount of wine time (read:  enough time to almost finish the bottle) I brought out the surprise dessert–mocha spice chocolate pudding:

Styled with Peeps

Note to self:  do not indiscriminately dump Mokatika liqueur into pudding lest you end up with flambe-able dessert (and self).   It was still delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely could not have eaten it and then driven a car.  Next time I’ll be erring with caution–after all, wine and chocolate can already make me a bit giddy:

Dress by me, sandals from Britain, headband scarf from 1996 (yes, really!)

Bad Easter bunny impersonation--no wonder he wouldn't come near me

Of course, it should come as no surprise that after such a lovely meal and evening of wine plus alcoholic chocolate, I slept like a baby–a baby happy to have avoided all kinds of heavy fried food for the first time in days.

Easter Monday:  In Which We Thank The British For Yet Another Day Off (Trini) Work

For those of you dwelling State- or Canada-side, please don’t hate me.  Today was all about more sleep!  More relaxation! But with it comes less running and less swimming.

I was dying to move when I woke up this morning, but the pool was closed and I would have needed to get up much earlier to run.  I’m not sure if the morning regulars exercise on holidays, or if they go later in the morning, but I erred on the side of caution and decided I’d rather do a double-workout day or two and a couple of back -to back runs rather than risk being the only one out and about this morning.

I may love wearing fancy office clothes, but it’s beyond nice to be able to wear casual wear all day long on a Monday:

Straining to water plants in 100% Old Navy (shorts, T-shirt, flip flops)

And once thusly attired and fed, I redirected my energies of the day onto my sewing instead, and continued in my quest to turn this:

Into this:

Anthropologie dress

I worked the patience tip like it was my job today.  I hand-basted and machine basted most seams to check for fit, made adjustments, ripped seams apart with care and minimum swearing, and I’m finally at the finish-line for the top part, which is based on a shirt pattern.  On the weekend, I’ll be Frankensteining the skirt, based on another dress pattern I have, onto the top part/shirt.   I have a good feeling it’ll work out–and I have 100% certainty that my foul swearing will be heard from here to Antarctica if it doesn’t.

Excuse me while I go obsess over Season 3 of Dexter.  I’ll try to detach myself from the TV for long enough to sleep and blog (oh, and work) for the next few days, but if not, expect me to resurface once it’s all over.

Good night!

Run? Swim? Both, Please–Because A Girl Can Dream

I am about to explode with excitement!  I have successfully done a double-duty run-and-swim day.  My legs are still attached and happy, I did not fizzle in the water, and I think I can allow myself to dream big now.

The details:

This morning, I questioned going on my scheduled four mile run (love the sound of “scheduled four mile run”–it makes me feel so official and hardcore).  My stomach had been displeased with me the day before, and I had the slightest hint of headache, and the room was hot already at 6 am despite the AC being on high….  You know, garden-variety excuses.

But I strapped on all necessary equipment anyway–knee sleeve, heart rate monitor and chest strap, band-aids in case new sneaks rubbed, i-pod, nike+, ipod holder, safety pins to attach the keys to myself–and headed out the door, not expecting much.

The first mile dragged a bit and, because I knew I had taken it too easy, I thought I’d make myself wait past a mile and a half for my usual walk break, until mile 2 rolled around and I realized I had yet to take a walk break–woot woot!  So I thumbs-upped myself and took a short walk break, and then ran the other half fairly incident- (and walk-) free.

Unlike my last four mile run, once I hit mile three my feet didn’t instantly hurt, nor did my stomach wobble, nor did I start thinking of how great it would be stop.  I actually thought of how great it would be to keep going , if only because I would feel majorly kick-ass and smugly entitled for the rest of the day, both of which are number one reasons for doing stuff as far as I’m concerned.

So, in the end, I ran four miles in 40 minutes, with only two walk breaks.  No mean dogs or dodgy men were spotted, and I lapped twice around the morning garbage truck (take that, Mr. Staring BubbleBelly Driver) and twice around a crew of workers pretending to dig at some plumbing near my street. By the time I got home, I felt like the Queen of My Domain (For Shizzle).

As I was also hip-and-knee-twinge-free and aware that I would not be able to swim on Thursday during lunch (doctor’s appointment), I decided that the day called for a double–that easy swim I didn’t do yesterday was in the cards indeed.

So, armed with my foxy new swimming bikini and a shot glass’s worth of SPF 85 sunblock, I dove into the pool for an easy 20-lap swim.  Which turned into 25 because the water was so nice, and the sunblock so effective, and I felt so shockingly OK after the run and the first twenty laps.

Which makes me think that my semi-secret goals of doing a half-marathon and a triathlon in the coming year may not be so unattainable after all.

The half-marathon “tease” goal has been on my mind since my visit to Puerto Rico.  You see, I have a wonderful jolly uncle:

That's my tio in the rooster mask!

He recently walked a VERY fast 10K race.  Not a big deal for many, but this wonderful uncle of mine has a tracheotomy from a bout of throat cancer he fought through about twelve years ago, and has lost about 100 pounds in the last year after a serious lifestyle overhaul resulting from a diabetes-hospitalization scare, AND did all of this after having dealt for years with excruciating back pain from a very badass motorcycle accident in his early twenties.

Said wonderful uncle of my heart just had laparoscopic surgery on his knee for a meniscus-related injury, but I caught him coming off the 10K race high last week.  He told me excitedly that, if his knee allows, he will be walking (or walking-running) the NY Half-Marathon in April 2011.  I was floored.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t teary so I wouldn’t appear wimpy in the presence of the uncle who was about to give me some VERY good, big-girl-style whisky–and then I vowed to him that, if he could get himself and his knees to NYC for it, so would I.  We shook on it and had a glass of the aforementioned whisky to seal the deal.

So that’s my secret half-marathon teaser goal.  I REALLY hope he can do it, and I’m petrified of training for it if we end up going for it. But fear not, my friends.  I’ll do it, even if my knee falls off afterwards and I end up confined to my couch (with bonbons and Maury Povich, for weeks afterwards) because I’d do anything for this crazy uncle of mine, and because my dad would have wanted us to do a crazy thing like this, and because I’m guaranteed a great glass of whisky at the finish line and a slammin’ night out in NYC with him afterwards.

Let’s just cross our fingers the Family Knee Issues are resolved so we can both get our NYC glory….

In other news, this time of a sartorial nature, I brought back the yellow:

Apologies for dark shots--it was dark by the time I got home and around to taking these

Ditto

Which is now shockingly close to my year-and-a-half-in-Trinidad skin tone.  If only I could get cosmetics labeled “mustard” rather than olive, no?  Whatever–I take great pride in my ability to be described in terms of condiments.

As for food round these parts, I had the standard banana oatmeal (with coconut today–how very daring, eh? not) for breakfast, as well as an aloo pie (fried dough with spiced potatoes and topped with pepper sauce, curried chickpeas, and mango chutney) which was given to me at a meeting.  I seem to lack all feminine genetics when it comes to ice cream and chocolate (as in, I could swear them off for life without caring less), but when it comes to hot, spicy, tangy, fried stuff…  All I can say is I hope I come back as a sumo wrestler in my next life so I can eat these to my heart’s content, but since a sumo wrestler next life isn’t a sure thing, I’ll indulge wherever possible in this  one (and I’ll do it so greedily I’ll forget to take a picture, too).

For lunch, I had the second batch of my black bean, lettuce, tomato, green peppers, cucumber, and green onion salad, topped with homemade mango dressing.  The light was awful for pictures when I ate, but you can check out yesterday’s version if you want to see the real deal at its best.

As for dinner, the late afternoon errand of picking up The Smurf from the straightener (where they removed all the horrid scratches, bumps, and dents!) made for a hurried dinner-time.  What would have been lentil soup and pita pizzas turned into pasta with bottled sauce courtesy of Matouk, topped with baked breaded eggplant and fresh basil:

My peeps, the workouts have totally squashed my energy level.  I have crashed.  I will crash (into my bed).  I’ll be back tomorrow!