Monday, August 11, 2008
There's nothing more heartbreaking than having an eggplant sit in your refrigerator waiting to grow dry and wrinkly. A royal treatment to bestow upon your last remaining eggplant is to give it a little Jamie Oliver touch.
I don't care what anyone says about the lisp or about the pretentious over-the-top "International Flair" or the arrogance, I like Jamie Oliver. I think he's really talented and good at making simple meals seem so interesting. Given, he does sound a little off when he's speaking, but so does half of the British people who get confused if they appear more threatening to sound Northern or Mid-Western or act like an old-school Scouser. And only old people or giggly new housewives like Jamie Oliver.
Anyway, here's a really good simple recipe to get rid of ye ol' purple fat fruit in the fridge with some yummy mozzarella and fresh basil (Yes, I have an out of control dying basil plant that I need to get rid of too!). It's good for a quick meal and you can whip it up with any kind of tubular pasta you have in the house, really. I used penne instead of rigatoni, which is actually just a shorter stouter version of penne. This goes well with a light Italian table wine like Chianti, a Chilean Pinot Noir or a fruit Spanish varietal.
Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella
by Jamie Oliver, from Jamie's Dinners(Hyperion, 2004)
1 firm ripe pink, black, or white eggplant
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Two 14-ounce cans good-quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 fresh or dried chillies, chopped or crumbled, optional
Bunch fresh basil, leaves ripped and stalks sliced
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni or penne
7 ounces cow's-milk mozzarella
1 piece Parmesan cheese, for grating
1. Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices, then slice these across and finely dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don't really do this unless I'm dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm silky one.
2. Now, put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When it's hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7 or 8 minutes on a medium heat.
3. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli, but that's up to you. Add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.
4. While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta, cook according to the package instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.
5. At this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. When all my guests are sitting round the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. Then very quickly serve into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. Just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Serve at the table with a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.