Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Surprize ! That never came from a chicken !

Some things in life are really surprising. A chance encounter with a new person becomes your life long BFF, that accidental wrong turn brings you to discover a new favorite place and so forth. It can happen with food as well. We become culturally conditioned that certain foods go together and certain foods do not. Biscuits and gravy go together, while biscuits and lemons- not so much. Then one day, if we are lucky, we come across a way that combines what we believe to be inharmonious foods in a very delicious way. The following dish is one of those.

It includes potatoes and eggplant
two foods that most people would not normally combine. Why exactly is an eggplant called an eggplant ? It does not look or taste like an egg. Who knows. Who cares ! One thing is for certain- it is from the botanical family called nightshade, and that family includes things like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Most of these got their start in Central America. Columbus brought these back into Europe, where they did fantastic things with them . This dish was shown on an episode of David Rocco's Dolce Vita, and I figured out what it should be called in Italian - always makes a dish sound more exotic !

Melanzana patatina fritta con Trapanaise

1 pint grape tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, de-germed and sliced
a bunch fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for frying eggplant and potatoes
salt to taste
2 eggplants, cubed
3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into strips
1 lb pasta mufalda
1 cup pecorino cheese, freshly grated ( or any hard cheese you like, freshly grated)

 Place tomatoes, garlic and basil in a large mortar, or smash with an immersion blender(this is a raw sauce)
Add extra virgin olive oil, salt and use a pestle or immersion blender to crush the ingredients into a paste. If it looks too dry, add more olive oil.Crush the ingredients until the pesto sauce is even in consistency.

Heat up extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and fry eggplant until golden.
Place fried eggplant on an absorbent paper towel to drain excess oil.
Season the eggplant, while hot, with salt.
Do the same to fry up the potatoes.
Place pasta in a pot of boiling salted water. Stir initially to prevent from sticking.
Drain the spaghetti when it is al dente­.
Place the spaghetti in a large mixing bowl, add the pesto sauce, half the quantity of eggplant, potatoes, pecorino cheese and mix thoroughly.Toss in remaining eggplant and potatoes and toss with cheese. Serve.
It makes for a very tasty and hearty dish ! While potatoes and tomatoes can be thought of as going together ( think french fries and catsup), potatoes and eggplant not so much. But it works and it works well ! It's yet another meatless dish that can make the whole Meatless Fridays in Lent seem like Feasting Fridays in Lent.

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