Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eggplant: Convincing the unconvincable

I subscribed to a CSA this year. First time, long time coming.  While it means deliciously fresh, local (ie. guilt free) produce, organic (in this case), well loved, lip-smacking good, it also means.....a little bit of strife. Box number one glared up at me with it's purple sheen, hiding beneath butter lettuce, pressed between English cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes.  Eggplant.  Can you see it?

What to do with this gummy, oddly seeded, tough, flavorless aubergine? Wikipedia tells me that this lovely little veggie (sometimes a fruit) only arrived in the west circa 1500, hardly a time when my people were developing their palates.  Clearly mine still has not developed a taste for this. As a matter of fact, neither has the Cap'n nor Trodimon's.  We have three non-believers that need to be converted.  Nothing from box #1 will go to waste.

I stumble upon this little recipe and the wheels start to turn.  I wasn't craving an Asian taste.  Last night's soup satisfied that taste bookmark for the week.  But I like the idea.  Cut a slit in 3/4" eggplant rounds and stuff it full of...something.  This I can work with.
Stuffed, eggplant, Italian-- and fennel pops in my head.  One of my coworkers has recently fell head over heels for Mario Batalli, or more particularly the man's use of fennel.  Like any good Italian knows, fennel is not just for our Italian sausage but can be blended into almost anything for that little non so cosa (Italian for je ne sais quoi).  .
So what if we combine ricotta cheese, hot Italian sausage and fennel and stuff eggplants with that.  Then grill it.  Throw it on a bed of marinara pasta...
And top with garden-grown Italian parsley and vodka marinara.  Presto!  We were converted.  This tastes nothing like that gummy, gross, overly breaded flavorless, gelatinous mass that I hate.  This eggplant is fresh and firm and earthy. And, much to Mario's delight, full of fennel.  Delicious.  I think for round two lunch leftovers I may even spoon the extra filling on top of the eggplant.
And here you have it.  Our inaugural meal on my newly built picnic table.  May the delicious combination of CSA challenges and convertible palates begin on my soon-to-be-blue picnic table!

Italian Stuffed Eggplant
1 eggplant, sliced into 3/4" rounds, and slit 2" wide
1 cup ricotta
3 links of hot Italian sausage, de-cased, browned and broken into small bits
2 t freshly ground fennel
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8 inch strips
8 oz whole wheat thin spaghetti
1 jar vodka marinara
2 T chopped Italian parsley
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions.  Toss with 1/3 c marinara sauce to keep the pasta from sticking.  Fire up your grill.  Combine ricotta, sausage, fennel, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stuff eggplant rounds with ricotta mix.  Brush eggplant and zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill zucchini and eggplant for 5 minutes each side, or until nice char marks develop.  Plate pasta, cross 2 zucchini strips and place eggplant atop pasta pile.  Spoon extra marinara atop eggplant and sprinkle with parsley.

*line your grill with aluminum foil to keep your eggplant from sticking to the grill.
** to be enjoyed on a hot summer night after biking a gallon of blue wood stain 4 miles home.  This is going to be a picnic table deserving of such hard-fought-for-meals.


  1. Joanna -
    Your dad pointed to your blog and I'm loving it! This latest post just might make me give eggplant another try... I love to think of it as aubergine, that deep rich regal purple color! Fred tried so hard to get me to like it in a futzy ingredient-laden moussaka, but it was not to be! The photos make it tempting!

  2. Hi MaryJo--
    How lovely to find you here! :) You really should give eggplant another go. Plus, you will have enough of the ricotta sausage mix left over to spoon it on top, before the sauce for even more flavor. Absolutely delicious eggplant. Now those are three words I thought would never go together?! Enjoy!