I belong to a CSA, where every Saturday they drop of a bag of fresh produce from the farm at my front door. What I receive in that bag every Saturday informs what I will be cooking for the next week. I find that it forces me to be creative and use ingredients I wouldn’t normally use. Recently I got an eggplant, so my mind immediately went to either ratatouille or eggplant parmesan, since I had fresh pasta and some pecorino in my fridge I decided on eggplant parm.
The problem was I didn’t have spaghetti sauce or the ingredients to make it (I usually make it, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed tomatoes, red wine.) Looking in my fridge I realized that I did have an abundance of fresh salsa from the deli section of my grocery store. I looked at the ingredients, tomatoes, onion, green chile, then a bunch of, contains less than 2% of… I thought, mistakenly, that I would be able to transform this salsa into a pasta sauce. I sautéed onion, garlic and a little carrot, added the salsa, added massive amounts of basil, sundried tomatoes, oregano and garlic salt. Brought the whole thing to a boil then simmered for 45 minutes. The whole house had the wonderful smell of pasta sauce, but for some reason the tomatoes in the salsa never broke down, they stayed hard little dices (how unripe would they have to be to maintain this structure?) and most importantly they never lost their acidic zing that says “salsa.” It tasted like spaghetti sauce with a bunch of lime juice added. In the end I had to go out and buy the ingredients to make a fresh batch of sauce.
8 oz pasta
Pecorino or Parmesan
1. 24 hours in advance slice your eggplant and salt liberally on both sides, place on a baking sheet with paper towels on both sides and place another baking sheet on top. This forces some of the liquid out of the eggplant and removes some of the bitter flavor it can have.
2. Fill a large pot with water and really salt the water. I always heard it should taste like sea water, and my pasta never tasted great until I realized just how salty the water should be. If you use enough salt then your pasta will taste great plain. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Set up a breading station. 1 plate with flour on it, 1 plate with the 2 eggs beaten, 1 plate with a mixture of the bread crumbs and some of the parmesan. Bread your eggplant slices, into the flour, into the egg into the breadcrumbs.
4. In a pan, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil starts to shimmer add in the slices of eggplant. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip. Once they are cooked on both sides set on paper towels to drain. They should be crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle.
5. When your water is boiling add your pasta, I am lucky enough to get fresh pasta from a local source so the pasta cooks in 1 minute.
6. Drain the pasta
7. Assemble the dish – Pasta, Sauce, Eggplant, Cheese, Parsley