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.

(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!

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Note:  this is last night’s post.  It seems WordPress had a hissy fit and did not publish it, after all….

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Today I feel like a rock that had been placed over my head.  I hate the Migraine Family Curse, and I especially despise it in hot weather when the bedroom is too bright and the living room AC is too loud.

But enough of that.

Apart from the general lying around yesterday, I did manage to sit up for two hours and finish the adjustments on my two linen skirts (tip:  if clothing is so loose on you that you can get in and out of it without unzipping, it’s probably not cute on you anymore–time to get thee to a tailor or deal with it yourself.  Safety pins do not count as “dealing with it yourself.”)  Why undertake such tedious hated tasks while ill?  Because resistance is low–and it’s not like it can make you feel any worse, right?

Hence voila, today’s wearings:

I have seriously missed this skirt in the past two months of suit-like black skirt boredom.  Welcome back!  The top is H and M standard, the necklace a present from the Most Fabulous S, and the shoes from Target.  Aviators courtesy of a cheap store next to the supermarket and my desire to have people confuse me with Little A–we’re always told we look alike and we could probably fool people if we wore the same sunglasses.

In other sewing news (and, if you are either averse to sewing, male, or both, you may wish to look away right about now), I had a fabric store frenzy this weekend!  It was a planned visit, but it turned into a proper frenzy when I saw the always-appreciated “storewide sale” sign up.  25-35% or more off everything?  I’ll take ten, please.

I actually brought home four cuts of gorgeousness with very specific ideas of what I wanted to make with them.  If I buy fabric without an idea in mind for it, I’ll never decide what I want to make, let it sit for a year, and then lose all interest in it.  Charming, I know.

So how do we feel about this beautiful, breezy, purple-checked cotton:

For a dress like this one, from Anthropologie?

And this monstrously huge flower print in a satiny cotton:

Possibly for something like the Anthropologie Rainforest Morning Dress:

Or their Serengeti Sundress?

I also picked up this violet and peach madness, which was a total steal at 10 TT (about US $1.75) a yard.  I think the fact that it borders on tacky makes it VERY cool indeed:

So I can totally see it doing something like this Anthropologie Cooling Magma Dress–a plus being that I have a pattern with a similar bodice and I’d only have to draft something up for the skirt:

Final purchase was a blue flower-patterned and metallic-striped turquoise chiffon:

Which I’m imagining for a floaty blouse like the Anthropologie Tiny Tucks blouse:

Or possibly even something like this (Parachuting Petals by Anthropologie, great name!):

Please note that I don’t have shares in Anthropologie, nor do I actually own anything from said store (and, with the cost of most items, I wouldn’t want to, even if I had the money–I’d be terrified of spilling coffee or ketchup on it).  But I love their designs and I love that they let you download their images, which works well for demonstration purposes for y’all.

Given that I’ve only just started to draft my own stuff and Frankenstein things together (i.e. use two different patterns to make something new), I think I have my work cut out for me.  But once work slows down, I’m up for the challenge.  I  just need to buy a lot more pins–and a good supply of patience.

As for shakings du jour, a gentle swim was had, which did wonders for my tight shoulders and sense of normalcy after yesterday, when the only time my heart beat faster was when watching Dexter.

And food…. I must issue a general apology for general food boringness these days.  Trust me, the food sure doesn’t taste boring, but I’m relying on a lot of standby dishes, leftovers, and make-ahead meals and not pushing the envelope here.  I’ve been a busy girl lately.  Same as with the sewing, though:  you can expect ramped-up production of kitchen concotions of a new and interesting nature in a few weeks, once the commitment schedule calms down a bit.

Lengthy preamble over, the only blog-worthy meal was this–pasta with white beans and tomato sauce:

It’s a real old-time recipe for me–it’s actually the first recipe I ever made when I moved out on my own!  Nine years later, it still tastes great and reminds me of good times in Montreal.  I love it so much that, if you come back tomorrow, you may find it posted in the Chomping Shop (hint hint).

Why is this the only blog-worthy meal, you ask?

  1. Breakfast was banana oatmeal again. Again. Because bananas are faster to cut than apples (and cheaper).
  2. Lunch was a sardine sandwich with a green salad.  If it looks like catfood and tastes like catfood, it’s best left alone (or to the cats).  I love sardines.  I love mustard.  I don’t like it when they morph into catfood.  Bitter catfood.  Never again.

That’s it for today.  No Dexter, no migraine–bedtime.

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!

Safe Running 2: How to Not Get Dead (Or Maimed by Dogs/Machetes)

This morning, I successfully completed my longest run ever–6 KM!!  (or 3.87 miles, according to Nike+ and its disregard for my dual measurement thang).

It went surprisingly well.  The first two miles were a piece of cake, despite my legs feeling like lead for the first five minutes or so (maybe I need a new playlist?), and by the time mile 3 hit I was beaming at the fact that I was feeling great and not ready to die at the prospect of going that ittybittylitttlebit further than usual.

So there I was, cruising along and waiting for Miz Nike+ to tell me I when I had 1 km left.  At the end of mile 3, girlfriend pipes up with “Halfway point! Three miles to go.”  Sheesh, I set it wrong, I know, but I do wish it would understand that I want to know my pace in minutes per mile, but the length of my run in kilometers.  I appreciate its idiosyncracies regarding albums and playlists and expect the same of her.  Maybe it’s because she remains unnamed…

But whatever.   I kept running and pressing the stats button every minute to do some mental math and see how much longer I had to go, probably setting myself up for a jammed menu button in the future.  In fact, I was so distracted by the mental math and the extra, short neighborhood loop that I didn’t have a chance to focus on how my non-usual socks today went from smooth to sandpaper-chafey the second I passed mile 3.1.

But on I went, and I finished, and I might have screamed and yelled and jumped up and down at the end of my street when it was over.  I gave myself a good three minutes to walk my heart rate back down to normal–plus five more of walking on top of that when the garbage truck (which I’d passed and smelled thrice already) started its slow drag down my street.  Safety dictates that you don’t want to be seen going into your house by these guys, who may say hello nicely but who watch EVERYTHING, so I just walked up and down the street until they were gone and tried not to panic at how this truck/safety ridiculousness was about to make me late for work.

So, in the spirit of safety concerns and precautions, rightful or ridiculous, I thought I’d give you the rest of my safety measures (if you missed the first installment, catch it here).

Tip: Approach mother hen with caution, stopping traffic to allow her and her chicks to cross--it builds good road safety karma

  1. Slow down if you see a stray dog.  In Trinidad, they tend to be apathetic to people, despite the copious warnings of the average person; however, it’s not worth risking limbs and appendages on the assumption that that dog that is staring you down is too lazy to move his ass and come bite you on yours.  I’ve seen people walk with sticks, and have been chided by neighbors for not doing so; however, I think I’d cause myself more harm running while swinging a big stick than the dog threat merits.  If you do run into a leery dog, do not look it in the eye, and walk away briskly.  “Shoo”, said loudly and forcefully, should send it on its way if it comes any closer. ( I’ve heard that squirting a dog in the face with water also can stop it from attacking; thankfully it’s never been an issue for me, but that’s another reason for keeping a water bottle at hand.)
  2. Carry water until you get used to the distance and route.  You never know if, while observing the deliciously tacky architecture or making a fool of yourself by cawing at a neighborhood parrot, you take a wrong turn and find yourself farther from home than you thought.  93 degree heat is no joke, and until you’re used to it, you want to ensure that you don’t dehydrate.  You can get all fancy with camelbacks and belts or just take any ole bottle and grasp it while you run.  I know that it’s better not to carry extra weight or grip things while you run.  I also know that I would take hand cramp over heatstroke any day of the week.
  3. Make sure someone knows you’re out and about.  Be that friend, family, significant other, even frenemy on occasion, make sure someone knows what time you left, when you expect to be back, and where you will be running.  And please don’t feel weird asking someone to keep track of this for you—no one (except your frenemy, perhaps) would say no to such a small  favor.  I tend to text a friend right before I leave.  If she does not hear from me within an hour, she calls.  If I don’t answer, I know I can trust her to call in the national guard to search for me.
  4. Two chemicals products that are your friends:  bug repellent and sunscreen.  Sporting red dengue spots under sunburn is not cool.  I am guilty of not following this advice as regularly as I should, but I do put the goop on about 90% of the time.  It helps if the sunblock is for sporty types (non-greasy, not running into your eyes) and the repellent does not smell as flammable as we all know it is.  There is a certain product (ok, it’s Avon Skin So Soft lotion) that will do the bug repelling quite nicely for you without being formulated for this.  African shea butter also works (though I’d be hard pressed to slather on the stuff just to sweat it out, given how pricey the real thing is).
  5. Music:  I leave this for last because it’s all been said before.  I know it’s infinitely safer not to wear headphones on your runs, but I just can’t stand to hear myself panting breathing heavily, and I’d be bored to tears without tunes.  Try to keep the volume as low as you can, or run with only one earbud in.  I don’t follow my own advice at times, but I plead the “do as I say, not as I do” defense.

I’m sure I’ve missed some tips, probably obvious ones, but ten is about as much as seems right for a blog post.  What are your safety precautions?

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Eating today:

Breakfast:  Oatmeal, eaten at work, from tupperware, as usual (picture it:  banana, coconut, bit of pineapple juice–do you see the nondescript color?  Yep, that’s why there’s no picture of it.)

Lunch:  a most delightful salad, just like yesterday’s (black beans, grapefruit, olive oil, sniff of garlic and mini-pinch of cumin, over lettuce and tomatoes)

Dinner:  Pasta with tomatoes, white beans, tomatoes, and greens:

Wearing today:

A dress that increasingly makes me feel like a birthday present to somebody, but in a good way:

Target. Sale. US $3.74.  Good for rocking a cranberry feel and experimenting with a camera as lipstick.