Not Eggplant Parm…
Well – it’s that time of year – we have eggplant. Lots of eggplant. Our CSA farm specializes in many kinds of eggplant… Big purple ones, and thin Japanese ones, and curly lavender ones…
I’m going to make ratatouille. In fact, I’m going to repeat what I did last year, and make a big batch without “enough” (or possibly any) tomatoes and freeze it in single serving containers – that worked very well. In fact, pulling out a container of that, adding canned diced tomatoes, and having a meal in January that tasted like August was really wonderful!
But meanwhile – I still have more eggplant, and I needed dinner. It was a busy week – I was running around, and I was away from home for a while (on fairly short notice) and Rich ate the meatballs I made a few weeks ago with jarred pasta sauce – and I’d bought ingredients for Eggplant Parmigiana, but it was late and I was very tired. And we needed dinner. Eggplant Parmigiana is delicious, but it is fussy… I seem to make it with a different recipe from a different cookbook every year, and have never quite settled on my preferred version.
And I was tired, and rushed. And I thought that, after all, it’s really the flavor combination we like. I have the ingredients, just not the time or energy. So… why not – shall we say – deconstruct the recipe? (OK, a deconstructed recipe is all the ingredients served separately – I slung them all together in a mess… )
I chopped an onion, and started it sauteing. I diced a big purple eggplant small, until I had what looked like Enough Eggplant for the two of us – the rest will go in the ratatouille. (Note the precise scientific measurements… sometimes it just works that way.) I then added it to the pan to brown a little.
I decided that, without the lovely layers, there wasn’t going to be quite enough cheese, so, once the eggplant was brown I added a little of my precooked ground meat from the freezer. (No onions in that batch.) Then, Rich had used half a jar of commercial Puttanesca sauce the night before – I added the rest of that to the vegetable mixture, and let it simmer.
While that was simmering, I diced some mozzarella. And I realized I hadn’t put on water for pasta – and everything else was going to be ready in a few minutes – but I had cooked rice… So I heated the rice. Once the eggplant was thoroughly cooked (which didn’t take long, since I’d cut it small) I stirred in a few spoonfuls of ricotta, and about half the mozzarella. I put the rest of the diced mozzarella on the hot rice, and then served the sauce over that. (I thought adding is in the second stage would add textural interest, as some was fully melted and some was still firmer.)
Well – it’s not pretty, but it tasted good. Rich suggests that I just make this in future, instead of bothering with the full recipe! I’m not sure I’ll go that far… Or, at any rate, I may still make the full recipe of the layered browned eggplant once a year or so – which is about as often as I’ve made it in the past (have I mentioned that it takes a lot of work?) but I will also make this – and make it more often. So we’ll get the flavor more than once a year, which is all to the good.
I don’t have a proper Recipe as such. I did it by eye – and, though I decided to take pictures (in case it turned out well) I didn’t go through carefully measuring. I used rather less than half the cheeses I had… and about two thirds of the eggplant… and… it’s really all just slung together. Sorry, but this post is more about showing possibilities than about sharing a good recipe. This is not Eggplant Parm – but it was delicious.
Sometimes it just makes sense to deconstruct – and recombine.