Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pasta with Egglplant, Walnut Pesto, and Ciliegine

I'd like to start by saying a big THANK YOU to all my dear classmates from Williams who have been keeping up with the Student Epicure. Your kind words last weekend were wonderful to hear and very encouraging. I hope you keep reading and cooking!

This week's recipe was inspired by the weekly recipe contest on food52, which urged us home cooks to find your best recipe using fresh mozzarella. Although my favorite use of fresh mozzarella is a simple caprese salad (a little cliched, perhaps, but delicious like tiramisu), I wanted to try something using ciliegine, which are tiny fresh mozzarella balls. I wasn't sure if this recipe would actually be realized since I kept popping them into my mouth on the walk home from the grocery store. I had beautiful Italian eggplant from Russo & Son's inimitable grocery store in Watertown. I've also been trying to eat through my cupboard in preparation for my iminent move to Worcester, so the boxes of pasta must be eaten and all the bags of Trader Joe's nuts be consumed! Et voila, with a little inspiration from Jerry Traunfeld, this recipe was born.

Another nice addition to this recipe would be some halved cherry tomatoes for an extra bit of color and a little crunch. I used tri-colored rotini, but whole wheat penne would be delicious too.

Pasta with Eggplant, Walnut Pesto, and Ciliegine

serves 2
  • 2 Italian eggplants, in 1 inch cubes
  • 4 large garlic cloves (unpeeled!)
  • ~4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dried pasta, like penne or rotini
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 8 ciliegine, halved
  1. Preheat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, spread eggplant with garlic cloves in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil or until you can evenly coat the cubes by tossing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until eggplant is tender, 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Roughly chop walnuts and set aside in a small bowl. Finely chop basil and add to bowl with remaining 2 T olive oil.
  4. When eggplant is tender, remove garlic cloves and peel. Roughly chop garlic and add to walnuts and basil.
  5. In a serving bowl (or you can use the pot you used to cook the pasta), toss together the eggplant, pasta, walnut-basil sauce, and ciliegine. Season with salt & pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Breakfast Eggs with Kale

Whoa, hello, world. Sorry I've been MIA. Too much weekend travel for this food blogger. After my college reunion this weekend, I look forward to spending more time cooking in Cambridge. Last weekend I was in the Berkshires to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday. My parents' garden is looking lovely: vibrant beds of young lettuce, lots of potato plants, tracts of garlic shoots. Much to my surprise, their kale was ready of picking. I associate kale with the beginning of autumn -- it's a hearty vegetable meant for darker, colder nights. I brought a large bag back with me and have been amazed at the tenderness of the leaves. You don't have to cook the life out of this kale. Rather, you can just saute it a little longer than you would spinach leaves.

I also had Berkshire free-range eggs and fresh ciabatta bread. I've been jonesing for Sunday brunchy eggs and so decided to make a healthful eggs benedict-like lunch dish. Toasted ciabatta is topped with sauteed kale, followed by a runny fried egg and a sprinkling of cheese. I added garlic, chili flakes, and red onion to the kale of a little extra kick. Some nice variations on this might be: adding chopped kalamata olives to the kale or replacing the ciabatta with a toasted slice of your favorite bread.

Breakfast Eggs with Kale
serves 2
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 t. red chili flakes
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 c. chopped kale (I used cavalo nero), large stems removed
  • 2 slices toasted ciabatta
  • 2 eggs
  • Parmesan for sprinkling
In a large frying pan, heat 2 T of oil over med-high heat. Add garlic, chili flakes, and onion, sauteing until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add kale and continue to saute. Using tongs makes it easier to evenly cook the kale until wilted, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove kale from pan and set aside. Stick bread in the toaster. Over high heat, heat another 2 T of oil in the same pan. When hot, add eggs and fry 2 minutes per side so that yolk is still runny.

To assemble, place one slice of toast on a plate. Top with half of the kale, followed by an egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and eat immediately!