Tag Archives: eggplant

Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

Adventures in eggplant are always interesting. Mostly because I usually feel like I don’t know what I’m doing so every time I cook it it feels like an experiment. I didn’t grow up eating it…ever. Even now I don’t eat it all that often. But with my weekly surprise farm boxes, sometimes they come my way and I’m hate throwing away food so you can bet I will find a way to cook it! I’m still teaching myself to cook it, and to love it. I’m not quite there yet, but we have reached an accord, the eggplant and I.

I would call this particular eggplant experiment a success. I mean, really, when you add sauce and cheese and pasta, you can pretty much throw anything in there and it will be good, am I right? The ricotta and marinara sauce mingle into a wonderful creamy coating for the noodles and the eggplant adds great texture (and a few vitamins, yay!). If you want a little less texture, I would recommend peeling the eggplant. I left the peel on and didn’t mind it a bit.

Don’t be intimidated by all the steps. While there are several components, they are all individually easy to make and the finished dish is pretty, hearty and great for serving a crowd, or sticking in your fridge to eat all week, or gifting it to friends or family who have had a busy day.

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Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

Sauce:
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped olives
Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
Salt & pepper to taste

Crumb:
1/2 cup chopped kale, spinach or herbs
1 clove garlic
2 slices of sourdough bread (stale is best!)
Pinch of sea salt

For the bake:
2 cups diced eggplant (bite size dice) – 1 large eggplant or 2 little ones
1 tsp. sea salt
1 package penne pasta
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan
8 oz. mozzarella

Heat oven to 375˚. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray or rub with olive oil. Set aside.

Put eggplant in a colander and toss with sea salt. Let it sit in the sink for 10 minutes while you make the sauce, pasta and crumb topping. The salt will help draw out the extra moisture so it isn’t mushy in your casserole.

In a medium sauce pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook a minute or so until fragrant but not browned. Add tomatoes and olives. Bring to a boil and then turn down and let simmer. Add basil. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Cook pasta according to package directions, removing about a minute earlier than usual so it’s still a little al dente. It will continue to cook in the oven so this will keep it from getting too soft. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

Combine kale, garlic, sourdough bread and sea salt in a food processor. Pulse to get a crumb mixture. Sauté in a large dry skillet until it’s slightly brown and crunchy. (You can also do this step in the oven, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.) Set aside.

Spread paper towels on your counter top and put the eggplant on top of them. Press down on top with another layer of paper towels to remove the moisture that has accumulated. Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Spread out eggplant evenly in one layer. Cook a few minutes on each side until slightly browned and tender but not mushy.

Build your casserole. Start with half the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Top with the pasta. Then the ricotta in dollops all around and then smear them around to form a layer. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add eggplant. Then the other half of the sauce. Top with mozzarella, just torn into chunks. Finish with breadcrumb topping.

Bake at 375˚ for 25 minutes, or until top is crunchy and cheese is melty. Serves 6.

Right out of the oven. Mmmm.

Right out of the oven. Mmmm.

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CSA Week 9-12 – Thai Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Eggplant. My heart lifts at the pretty sight of them in my CSA box because I think they are beautiful. But then it plummets when I remember that I don’t like them very much, and that even so, I love them compared to the rest of my household. But, part of the challenge with these weekly farm boxes is getting creative and finding recipes that we like despite ingredients that, sometimes, are not our favorites.

So. I decided to use recipes we like as a launching point and just work in some eggplant. Some made their way into Freaking Awesome Quinoa Burgers (largely unnoticed by the masses), and I made a huge pan of Eggplant Parmesan, since that has been our one true eggplant recipe success thus far. Although others ate some without complaint, I’ll admit to eating the majority of that pan by myself over the course of several days. Still my favorite eggplant recipe, and it’s a good one.

While wracking my brain for something new and exciting to do with eggplant, I remembered a Thai cooking class I took a while back where we made green curry with eggplant. We all love Thai food so I thought that would be the perfect thing to try. The homemade green curry paste is the star of this dish and just about anything you throw in with it is going to be delicious, even the dreaded aubergine. The other great thing about this recipe is that it is delicious with or without the eggplant. If you absolutely don’t like it, just leave it out and double up on the mushrooms instead. Personally, I think they both have a similar texture when cooked, and they both really absorb the flavor of the sauce, so I liked it just fine with the eggplant. I also threw in some shrimp just for the heck of it. This was a winner (although yes, I found a few eggplant chunks left at the bottom of Claire’s bowl. I’ll keep working on it).

Thanks to my most recent box, I already have another one of these suckers to cook.  Any ideas?

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms
(Slightly adapted from Hipcooks)

Curry Paste:
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 thumb-sized piece galangal (or sub ginger), peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass
3 lime leaves, stems removed
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems, reserve both parts
2 small shallots (or 1/2 red onion)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. shrimp paste (or sub fish sauce)
1 thumb-sized piece fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp. dried)
5-6 thai green chiles (or more or less to taste)
1 large bunch Thai basil, stems removed
Juice from 1/2 lime
3-6 tbsp. fish sauce
2-4 tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (or chicken, or just leave out the meat)
2 Thai or Japanese eggplants (I used Thai eggplants, but any kind will work, although I think the texture of the smaller ones are nice), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 can coconut milk
Additional lime juice, brown sugar, or fish sauce to taste

Homemade green curry paste is where it's at.

Homemade green curry paste is where it’s at.

Make the curry paste: Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns. I do this in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Grind the spices in a food processor or spice grinder. Add the galangal, lemongrass, 2 lime leaves, cilantro stems, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, turmeric, chilies, and most of the Thai basil, reserving some for garnish. Puree until smooth. Add the lime juice and 3 tbsp. of fish sauce to start. You may need to add a tablespoon or two or grapeseed oil to encourage a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the flavorings as needed – more salt from the fish sauce, more sour from the lime, more spice from the chilies. This will make enough paste for this and probably at least one other meal (it freezes great).

Shrimp and veggies. Obviously feel free to mix this up if you don't like these ingredients. Really, you can use just about any combo of meat and/or vegetables you like.

Shrimp and veggies. Obviously feel free to mix this up if you don’t like these ingredients. Really, you can use just about any combo of meat and/or vegetables you like.

Add a bit of olive oil or grapeseed oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp, eggplant and mushrooms. Stir fry until shrimp start to turn pink. Add one can of coconut milk, bring to a boil, then lower heat. Stir in the green curry paste, a little at a time, until you’ve reached your desired color and taste. Simmer until veggies are soft. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of sugar, lime or fish sauce to adjust the sweet, sour and salty levels to your taste. Just before serving, garnish with reserved cilantro and Thai basil, and a finely sliced lime leaf, if desired.

Serve with rice to soak up that lovely sauce.

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Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant

I really like chicken, but man it can get boring, especially if you fall into a rut where you are making the same thing over and over again.  Never fear!  This recipe will pull you out of your chicken rut.  Close your eyes, take a bite, and take a little trip across the world while your taste buds do a little happy dance.

Don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients.  Most are spices that you probably already have in your cabinet (and if you don’t, you need them!).  I am not a big eggplant fan, but I really liked it in this dish, since it soaked up the flavor of that lovely sauce.  And the chicken was so tender it completely fell apart and melted in our mouths.  If you REALLY hate eggplant, I think this dish would be just as good with mushrooms (and give you a similar chewy texture).  Next time I make it (which will be soon!) I know I’m planning to throw a few in there.

I served this over couscous, which I kicked up a notch by mixing it with some dried fruit (a mixture of golden raisins, dried blueberries and cranberries) and some slivered almonds.  You could also just use rice or another grain.  You don’t have to serve it with a starch, but that sauce is definitely worth soaking up with something!

Moroccan Chicken with Kicked Up Couscous

Moroccan Chicken with Kicked Up Couscous

Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant
(adapted from eatgood4life.com)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cups water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (go ahead and use the stuff in a plastic lemon in a pinch)
12  chicken thighs, fat removed
1 small to medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp marjoram
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds or slivered almonds

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add paprika, salt, turmeric, coriander, fennel, pepper, cumin, and ginger, stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, water, and lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Arrange all chicken in a single layer in the pot and spoon some sauce over. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir eggplant and marjoram into chicken. Carefully stir and cook uncovered 10 more minutes over medium to high heat until chicken is tender and the eggplant is fully cooked. Season stew to taste with more lemon juice, salt and pepper if you like. Transfer chicken to a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with almonds and cilantro.

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