Thursday, November 4, 2010

Insanely Great Pasta Sauce

It was the continuous supply of eggplant that led to B.'s latest culinary breakthrough. Even though the season is just about over (after all, it's November!), the memory lingers on and will provide inspiration for next spring's planting decisions.

Two plants of Hansel eggplant and two of Fairy Tale produced gorgeous platefuls of glossy purple fruit that sat around on the dining room table, just asking to be made into something wonderful.

It wasn't the best season ever for tomatoes but there were still enough on hand (Early Girl, Black Trifele, Sun Gold, Yellow Pear) to fill their own plates and provide their own entrancing palette of color.

Since they were meant to be together -- like moonlight and music -- it was only a matter of time before they ended up simmering together in the same pan with some olive oil and crushed garlic. The little Fairy Tail teardrops didn't even need peeling, they were so tender. They disappeared completely into the sauce. The Hansels were peeled and sliced up and cooked until soft along with the tomatoes.

Sometimes B. would blanch the tomatoes first to get the skins off, and sometimes just quarter them and set them in the pan, skins and all. Pictured above is a skins-on batch. Whole basil leaves, just picked, were added towards the end of the cooking time.

Voila! A sauce that is so utterly simple yet subtle and rich with the tang of fresh tomatoes and the smokey undercurrent of eggplant, so silky it coats the noodles with flavor that lingers in the mouth and in the mind.

Another approach that draws out of the savor of the eggplant even more is to roast them whole for an hour in the oven. Just cut off the tops and prick them with a fork, coat lightly with olive oil and set them on an oiled baking sheet. Take them out when soft and collapsing into themselves, slit them open and squeeze out the yummy paste.

The eggplant is then combined with oven-roasted tomatoes. These were cooked for half an hour in an iron skillet with a layer of olive oil and some crushed garlic. When done, set the skillet on the top of the stove, add the eggplant paste and simmer gently until the mixture forms a sauce.

The roasting method produces a smoother sauce because all of the eggplant disappears into the magical meld of mouth-watering goodness.

Whatever route you take to get there, it's an insanely good pasta sauce.

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