CSA Week 11, plus Pasta alla Norma
The contents of our share just keep getting more and more exciting!
This week included:
- a lovely muskmelon
- two green peppers
- a selection of yellow summer squash, including two of the cute pattypan squash, which always remind me of spaceships (and that endears them to me greatly)
- two petite heads of garlic
- a pint of pretty multi-colored cherry tomatoes
- baby bok choy
- 3 yellow onions
- baby greens (the standard)
- and…..drumroll please!……two awesomely gorgeous eggplants! I think they’re the graffiti variety; I’m super excited about all the eggplant we’ve been receiving in the shares, since the 10 plants I tried growing in my garden were an absolute, miserable, complete bust this year (flea beetles are my new nemesis, with squash bugs running close behind them.)
I’m not sure what I’ll make yet with these eggplants, but I can tell you what I’ve made with the eggplants we’ve previously received in the share: one of my favorite pasta dishes, Pasta alla Norma. The first time I ever ate this classic Sicilian pasta dish was on a family vacation to San Francisco, early in my college years. We stayed in Half Moon Bay and ate one night at Mezzaluna. I remember being so delighted at how the eggplant just melted into the tomato sauce…it was also my first exposure to ricotta salata, which they served crumbled over the pasta. It’s one of those food memories that I hang onto…plus, the tiramisu I had for dessert was in the running for one of the best I’ve ever had (I do keep a running tally of tiramisu experiences, if you must know. There are many mediocre tiramisus, but when you get a good one, it’s heavenly!)
Anyhow, now I use Jamie Oliver’s recipe out of Jamie’s Italy, but it’s not too much of a recipe — you just slice up some eggplants into long, finger-like pieces, brown them in a pan in some olive oil, add some dried oregano, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and a good handful of basil, and that’s about it. Served with spaghetti with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese on top, and mmmmm…….this is summer comfort food to me.
We’re packing up to head up to the Adirondacks for a camping trip this weekend and next week — but fear not, dear readers, I’m scheduling some posts to go up next week while I’m away. As I sit here looking (with mild alarm) at my long list of thing to do before we go tomorrow morning, I’ve just decided that the posts will likely be along the lines of pictures to share…but I hope you’ll enjoy them regardless. 🙂
Pasta alla Norma
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy
2 large, firm eggplants
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
optional: 1 dried red chili, crumbled
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, stems finely chopped, leaves reserved
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen brand)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
fresh ricotta, ricotta salata, pecorino, or Parmesan cheese, grated or crumble
Cut the eggplants into quarters. If they have seedy, fluffy centers, scoop those away with a spoon. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into fingers.
Heat a large heavy pan with a little olive oil. Brown the eggplant pieces in two batches, adding a little more oil if you have to (but you don’t want to make it too greasy.) When you add a batch of eggplant to the pan, give it a little toss and sprinkle half the dried oregano over the eggplant. Use tongs to turn the eggplant so it gets golden on all sides. Remove this eggplant to a plate, then repeat with the second batch.
When the second batch is done, add the first batch back to the pan. You can add the dried red chili at this point if you’re using it. Turn the heat down to medium and add a little more oil, the garlic, and basil stems. Stir so everything gets cooked evenly, then add a swig of vinegar and the can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Coarsely chop or tear up half the basil leaves and stir them into the sauce.
Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a bit of the cooking water when you drain it. Add the drained spaghetti to the pan with the sauce, and toss to combine. Add a little cooking water if it needs to be thinned out a bit. Taste the pasta and adjust the seasoning if needed, then divide it among the serving plates. Serve topped with the remaining half of the basil leaves and a dollop of ricotta (or grating of ricotta salata/pecorino/parmesan.)