Eggplant PastaSeptember 8, 2010
I extended my 3 day weekend into a 5 day weekend and really enjoyed the time off. I went to the spa with my Mom, did some shopping, lunching, decorating and exercising – it was a much needed break. I still cooked, but I also ate out with friends. Photos were starting to pile up, so I knew I needed to get going on a post or two.
My girlfriend Deede came over Monday afternoon with all of the ingredients for Alton Brown’s Eggplant Pasta. Her neighbor grows eggplants and tomatoes – score! We ran a couple of errands for another project and then got started on dinner for everyone. We doubled the recipe for 5 people and had a lot left over.
Giant eggplants and tomatoes
2 Medium to Large Eggplants – We used 2.5 giant eggplants
Kosher Salt – used to purge the water out of the eggplant slices
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Garlic Oil Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Chile Flakes
4 Small Tomatoes – seeded and chopped
1/2 Cup Cream
4 Tablespoons Basil – chiffonade
1/4 Cup Parmesan – freshly grated
Freshly Ground Pepper
Deede got started on peeling the eggplant. The recipe said to leave 1 inch of skin at the top and the bottom, we didn’t do that.
The next step was to cut the eggplant into 1.4 inch slices to get it ready for salting.
Evenly coat each slice with the kosher salt and purge on a rack for 30 minutes. We had 4 racks going at once.
It’s pretty cool to see how much moisture comes out of the eggplant – big drops of water coated every piece.
Rinse with cold water and roll in paper towels to dry.
Slice the pieces into thin strips to resemble pasta. This is when we realized the importance of uniformity. Some of the comments on the Food Network website suggested slicing the initial 1/4 inch thick pieces on a mandoline. Not sure it could have handled the huge size of our eggplants, but definitely worth doing if you have smaller eggplant and actually own a mandoline.
Heat the oil over medium to high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and chili flakes and toast. We had two pans going at once.
Add the eggplant “pasta” and toss to coat. We let the eggplant cook for about 3-5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase heat to thicken sauce. Finally add the basil and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with pepper, no salt needed as the eggplant will have residual salt from the purge process. Serve immediately.
The chile flakes definitely added a zing to this dish. If you don’t want the heat, you could definitely omit or use a lot less. As soon as I dove in, I was busy thinking up additional possibilities - adding sautéed spinach or kale, artichoke hearts, more cheese, a buttered panko topping, etc. I’m excited to try the dish with some tweaks.
Dan was not a fan – he did try the dish, but opted to fill up on the other items - Caesar salad and fresh bread.
Deede’s husband has put the dish in his “favorites” category. So now I have a zucchini pasta substitute thanks to the slicer and another option with eggplant. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of eggplant, unless it’s breaded and fried, hah! but in this form, I really enjoyed it. The slime factor was absent and the salt purge was definitely the secret to that.
No worries, I haven’t given up pasta – I also made a real pasta dish over the weekend and will be posting that next.