Monday, August 17, 2009

One Local Summer Week 11

I am so amazed that August is half over already. This summer has really flown by, though it didn't help that our rainy, cold June made it seem so short either. August is really a great time for cooking and gardening though. Our eggplants are finally catching up with the rest of our vegetables, and we are having a very difficult time finding ways to use up our cucumbers (giving them away doesn't seem to help either!). I'm surprised that we haven't had an overabundance of squash, which isn't so bad, and the cucumbers make up for that anyway. We've also been harvesting a large amount of scarlet runner beans which we have been cooking as broad beans (you can leave them on the vines to dry and shell). Our peppers are slowly maturing, we have plenty of small ones on our plants, so I'll need to collect some recipes for those soon!

The dish I wanted to share this week is the dish I wait all year for. As soon as the eggplants are ready, the first thing I cook is the famous Sicilian dish, Pasta alla Norma.

Pasta all Norma - Serves 4

1 medium eggplant, preferably heirloom
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or tomato sauce
1 clove garlic
fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 pound of pasta
ricotta salata

First peel the eggplant. Cut in half. Cube half of the eggplant and slice the rest. Place the eggplant into a colander and sprinkle with salt. Place a plate on top of the eggplant with a weight (maybe a can, or bottled drink) and leave for about 1 hour. Remove the weight and plate and lightly rinse the salt off the eggplant. Gently squeeze the liquid out of the eggplants and leave on a towel to dry.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-low heat and add olive oil to coat. When the oil heats and you see it shimmer, lay the eggplant slices in the pan to fry on both sides. The eggplant should be fairly soft and a bit brown. Place the eggplant on a dish and reserve. Smash the clove of garlic; it can be sliced, minced or left whole, as you like. Add the garlic to the pan. When you begin to smell the garlic, and before it browns, add the cubed eggplant. Stir the eggplant often as it cooks. The eggplant at first may draw in some oil, but as it cooks it will begin to release some oil. When that happens, add your tomatoes to the skillet. Stir together and then leave to simmer, adjusting the heat as needed. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to the directions. Drain the pasta when it is al dente and add to the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the basil, shredding with your hands as you add it. Drizzle some more olive oil and toss the pasta and sauce.

Serve the pasta with some eggplant slices on top, grated ricotta salata, and more fresh basil. Mmmmm....summer pasta!


Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 5:11 AM  

Yes, with the rainy June, it seems that we should be "owed" a lot more summer! Maybe it means that we will have a warm September for longer? One can hope :-)
Eggplants are coming out in full force here too, and it is great to have more ways to use them. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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