Friday, October 1, 2010

Eating Local: Fried Eggplant + Farmers Market Pasta

Nothing brightens up a long day of work like hitting up a local farmer's market on the way home. Sometimes the produce section of a supermarket can seem a little anemic; it can be difficult to navigate what's in season and what's been shipped across the country. Use this recipe as inspiration to hit up your own local farmers market for local & seasonal finds. I just picked up anything that seemed interesting, like purple Italian basil. You can sub out ingredients as you like for the pasta sauce - get creative!
    Ingredients for Eggplant
  • 3 small white eggplants (or 1 full size purple eggplant)
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground salt & pepper

    Ingredients for Farmers Market Pasta
  • 1 package of your choice of pasta
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • handful purple Italian basil
  • handful fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 jar basic pasta sauce
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper

First get all your veggies chopped to easily prepare your pasta sauce. Cut all veggies (except eggplant) into small cubes, as pictures above. Peel the skin off the eggplant - but DO NOT slice until you're ready to cook. Put a large pot of salted water to boil so you can toss the pasta in when you're finishing up the sauce.

In a large sauce pan, saute the garlic and tomatoes in approx 2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook at medium heat until tomatoes soften and start to release juice, about 5 minutes.

Add zucchini, onion, bell peppers. Season with freshly ground salt & pepper, oregano and crushed red pepper to taste. Stir ingredients together so all veggies are coated in tomato juices. Cook covered at a medium heat for 5-7 minutes to join flavors, stirring occasionally until zucchini should have softened up a bit. Add jar of pasta sauce, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get that pasta going in the water and cook according to directions. I used CAPUAOID pasta -- I usually just let Bill pick out whatever kind strikes him when we're at the supermarket. Keep it extra healthy by choosing something whole wheat. If cooking fresh pasta you might want to wait until you start cooking the eggplant so that the timing works out better. As a general rule, getting the pasta going at this time should have most pasta types finishing up by the time your dish is done.

Slice the eggplant, lengthwise if smaller (pictured above). If using a large purple eggplant, slice into round disks. Season with freshly ground salt & pepper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. If you don't have a non-stick skillet, I would also spray the eggplant with cooking spray to help prevent from sticking. Add eggplant in a single layer without crowding too much. Fry eggplant on each side 2-3 minutes until golden brown. You may have to add a little more olive oil as you go to cook up the eggplant because they will absorb a lot of the oil. Again, this is why using a little cooking spray to grease things up can help eggplant from sticking without drowning everything in oil.

Lay eggplant slices on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil before serving.

At this point, your pasta sauce should be finished. Check the largest veggie pieces to make sure they are tender. Remove and drain pasta. Serve eggplant slices along side (or on top of) Farmers Market Pasta. Garnish with a generous pinch of chopped purple basil and fresh parsley. Feel free to add some freshly grated cheese, I think a sprinkle of a nice goat cheese chevre is a perfect complement.

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