Friday, March 20, 2020

Eggplant with Molten Mozzarella

The Wall Street Journal ran a story yesterday tellingly titled "No Lucky Charms, Plenty of Okra — What's Left at the Grocery Store."

That is one of the boxes I checked when I was caught up in last week's grocery panic. The most deserted place in the store was the produce section, where I had wandered in search of lemons. (Hey, you need those for cocktails and I was fairly sure cocktails were on our family's emergency list.)

I gravitated to the fully stocked eggplant — some of the most beautiful I'd seen lately — remembering this recipe, which I'd planned to make so the ingredients were fairly top of mind. To be sure it doesn't take many ingredients and is easy, so it's perfect just for an easy meal or for a food panic day when everyone else ignored those gorgeous eggplants.

This is a wonderfully easy and delicious pasta dish from Pasta: Every Way for Every Day. It's also perfect for meatless meals and Fridays in Lent.

I doubled the eggplant (which practically disappeared in the original dish) and the red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and oregano (to keep the sauce flavoring ratios the same for the eggplant).

The molten mozzarella part is a variation to the original recipe, so I'm putting both the original (adapted) and the variation below.

Eggplant with Chili and Garlic
Serves 4

Step 1:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch dice (originally 14 oz.)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (originally 1/2 t.)

Heat oil in a skillet. Add eggplant, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently over high heat, until golden, 5-7 minutes. Turn down heat to medium low.

Step 2:
1/4 cup tomato paste (originally 2 T)
2 teaspoons dried oregano (originally 1 t.)
salt, black pepper

Stir in tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant dice are soft and cooked through, 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons hot water to the pan if the eggplant begins to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 3:
1 pound dried pasta, tubes or shapes: penne, rigatoni, orecchiette

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, until firm to the bite. Drain. Add pasta with 2 tablespoons additional olive oil to the hot sauce. Toss well to coat. Serve immediately with Parmesan to sprinkle on.

Variation: Eggplant with Molten Mozzarella

Stir 8 ounces diced, part skim mozzarella into the finished sauce and pasta right before serving, omitting the additional olive oil.

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