Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Simple Pasta Supper (and bonus brownies!!)

Ok, so I know my last post concerned pesto, but, especially in the summer, simple pasta dishes are just great. They're easy, relatively fast, and total comfort food. Plus, there are endless possibilities.

So for dinner a couple nights ago, I decided I wanted eggplant. This is mostly because I love eggplant and Iain's not a big fan, so since he's out of town I decided to capitalize on my chance to indulge as much as possible. I do not understand this dislike of eggplant, because eggplant is amazing, but, then, this is also the boy who doesn't like cheese. So sad....

A few notes on eggplant:

This is fairly common knowledge, but just in case-- it's a good idea to salt eggplant before you cook with it. Eggplants carry a lot of bitter juices, so about 20 minutes before you start cooking, cut the eggplant into slices and sprinkle salt onto them. This will cause the eggplant to release the juices. When there's liquid beading on the top of the eggplant slices, rinse them off and pat them dry with a paper towel. Well, at least that's how I do it. I know some people advocate sticking the pieces in a colander after you put the salt on. But just doing it on the counter works for me.

Personally, I don't much like to fry up eggplant. I mean, eggplant parm every once in a while is pretty awesome, but generally I find that broiling leaves in a lot more flavor and awesome texture. Plus it's super fast.

Also, I almost never peel eggplant. I really like the texture. And it's nutritious, I'm sure. But I know a lot of people who do like to peel their eggplant, so whatever works for you...

Anyway, I'll call this "Eggplant, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Basil Pasta" (creative, I know)

  • half an eggplant, sliced thickly
  • a few sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, cut into small pieces
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, minced (as a rule, I tend to like lots of garlic, but if you like less, by all means stick to a clove)
  • a handful of basil leaves, chopped into bite size bits
  • olive oil. You'll need at least a tablespoon or two for the garlic. Use more at your discretion.
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pasta of whatever variety you like. I found that about half a box of pasta was appropriate for the amount of sauce I made, but I'm sure everything could be easily doubled if you want to do a whole box.


1. Brush a tray with olive oil and brush the top of each slice of eggplant with additional oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. Broil five minutes a side, or until golden-brown and soft. Cut the pieces into strips.

2. Meanwhile, get some water boiling for the pasta. I used whole wheat penne, which in my opinion complemented the relatively light sauce well, adding more texture.

3. About five minutes before the pasta's done, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the oregano, stirring. Add the garlic and turn down the heat so that it cooks relatively slowly, releasing flavor. You don't want the garlic to brown.

4. A couple of minutes before the pasta's done, add to the oil and garlic the pieces of sun-dried tomato and salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat. Add the eggplant and basil just before draining the pasta, so it incorporates.

5. Serve with parmesan cheese, if you like. You may also need to add more oil to get the sauce to come together, but it's up to you really.

And....Bonus Brownies!

(adapted from a recipe I found online. I am so sorry that I didn't bookmark it so I can link you all directly, but I did mess with it slightly in 'baking adventure' fashion, so it wouldn't have been exactly the same anyway)

For the record, I do not believe in "the perfect brownie." I think that cakey and chewy both have their place, and although I generally prefer the latter, I do not think that it is inherently better. Generally, I go for recipes that have fewer than four eggs and use real chocolate (rather than cocoa powder exclusively). These, however, are awesome brownies. They're not so so sweet, so you really taste the chocolate, and the almond extract adds an awesome kick of extra flavor. My housemates seemed to like them too, as evidenced by the fact that this is the closest I have to a picture.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 a tsp almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1/3 bag chocolate chips-- I used semi-sweet, and the 1/3 bag is an estimate. Basically, throw some in if you got 'em.


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a pan. I used a 9in round pan. Probably an 8x8 would work well too.

2. In a double boiler, if you're fortunate enough to have one (if not, use a pot in a pan or skillet), melt the chocolate and butter together. For those who've never done this before, basically you want hot (not boiling) water in the bottom of the two containers. In the top one you want just the things your melting. Let them melt and when the chocolate is shiny, stir them together.

3. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then add the sugar, salt, extracts, and eggs (one at a time). As a side note, feel free to experiment with the extracts. Almond is my new favorite, but I'm sure mint or orange or something could be excellent too.

4. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder. The batter should be stiff at this point, so don't worry if it's a bit difficult to stir. Then add the chocolate chips.

5. Dump the batter into the prepared pan. The batter should be seriously thick at this point. Do not think slightly-lumpy-but-still-liquidy cake mix brownie batter. If that's the consistency you've done something...well...I won't say wrong, but certainly different, and you'll need to have a baking adventure all your own!

6. Bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it and cook slightly. I highly recommend serving with milk. Also, these are super rich and clearly dessert brownies--- not "I just got home from work and want a snack" brownies. I learned this the hard way yesterday and wasn't hungry for dinner until a while after I'd planned to start cooking.

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