I love eggplant. I can't get enough of it. Whenever we order out for our Friday night meals, my friends always pick out an eggplant dish especially for me.
This year, I stumbled across an eggplant plant at Behnkes. It was kind of late in the spring when I planted it and I wasn't sure if I'd have any success. But it has sweetly delivered about five good-sized eggplants this summer, or more elegantly in French, aubergine. This one is likely the last that the plant will offer me (though there is one blossom coming in now, and if I count the weeks until the first freeze--about five. Well, maybe she'll pop out another one for me).
Now, here is a funny story dredged from a long ago horrible time when I was smitten with my first real case of love. There is nothing worse than unrequited teenage love. The boy was in my third grade class and I fell deeply in love with him the first time I saw him. I harbored a painful passion for him for years. Maybe, as I recall, all the way through sixth grade. I did terrible things like phone him and hang up when he answered. I would sit starring at him in class. Sadly, he had no interest in me. I think he even called me Pyface. (I hated when the boys called me that.) So I made up a name for him. I channeled my love into a huge force of hate and loathing and worked up a powerful contempt for this boy, the former love of my life.
To ratify my contempt, I came up with a name for him that was certain to convey my utter and total disregard for him. His new first and last name were derived from the two most vile, repugnant vegetables that a mother could ever set before a kid to eat at dinner--"Broccoli Eggplant." Thus baptized one day on the playground, his moniker quickly caught on. The other girls on the playground and I used it to create a song, and later, a line dance to go with it. It was a chant that I'm sure unnerved him, and possibly caused his mother to phone the principal.
Today, the boy is a nice man who sells real estate. I wonder if he likes eggplant as much as I do?
My kids love eggplant, too. The other day, C. called from college and asked if I would please send her the recipe for her favorite eggplant dish. So here it is. The Putterer
Maccheroni Al Forno Alla Rustica
14 oz maccheroni
1 aubergine, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 oz butter, plus extra for the baking dish
4 oz thinly sliced onion
12 oz tinned whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice, coursely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsps freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano chees
4 pz Italian smoked mozzarella (use fresh if smoked mozz is unavailable), very thinly sliced
1. Pour vegetable oil into a saute pan until it comes 1/2 in up the side. Place over a high heat. Once the oil has become very hot, carefully slip in as many slices of aubergine as will comfortably fit. As the bottom of each slice turns golden brown, remove from the pan and transfer to a plate covered with kitchen paper. Continue frying untill all the aubergine is done. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Pour 7 pints of water into a large saucepan or pot and place over a high heat.
3. Melt the butter in another saute pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens and turns a rich golden colour.
4. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and cook until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the butter. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
6. When the water for the pasta is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt and drop in the pasta all at once, stirring well.
7. When the pasta is molto al dente (about 1 minute away from being al dente), drain and toss with the sauce and the grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
8. Smear the bottom of a shallow baking dish with butter and pour in about half the pasta, spreading it out evenly. Cover with all the aubergine slices and half the mozzarella slices. Pour in the remaining pasta, and place the rest of the mozzarella slices on top.
9. Place on the upper shelf of the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a light golden crust forms on top. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Source: The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan