What to make with Eggplant and Potatoes? Or, I Need 26 Hour Days

September 1, 2011

First of all, apologies to my subscribers and anyone else who wandered by over the past 12 hours and saw my accidental two sentence post.  That ‘publish’ button is way too close to the ‘save draft’ button.  Actually they’re not that close, but the they make the publish button so much more attractive that I guess I’m drawn to it.  Anyhow – on to a real post!

I got a gorgeous eggplant at the Boulder Farmers’ Market this past weekend. (Unfortunately, as per usual, I forgot the name of it by the time I got home).  It was a gorgeous round purple orb with white on the stem end.  And I had a surplus of purple new potatoes to use up.  So…what could I make with both eggplant and potatoes?  Aha! Something along the lines of Aloo Baigan would be a possibility.  (An Indian dish, with Aloo meaning potatoes and Baigan (or Baingan) meaning eggplant).  I’ve never made it, but am very familiar with the spices, and have had good success with a few Indian recipes I have.  (I’ll have to do Pau Bhaji sometime soon.  It’s from a wonderful recipe we got at the now defunct Mij Bani off of Pearl Street in Boulder.  It was one of our favorite restaurants in Boulder, serving tremendously delicious Southern Indian food.  But I digress…)  So that was the plan when we went shopping for our staples Sunday evening.  And then I made my Purple Posole Stew, which was wonderful tasting, but suffered from a bit of, well, brownishness.  And from our grade school art classes, we all know what the purple (potatoes) and yellow (tumeric) in Aloo Baigan would make, right?  BROWN!  Okay, back to the drawing board.  I circled back around to my husband’s earlier suggestion of gnocchi, but then remembered why I rejected it in the first place.  When a recipe I find online cannot be viewed in its entirety on two full pages, I’m thinking I’m not up for it on a weeknight.  So that was still out.

I finally decided that I would pretty much just wing it and try something with thyme and sherry.  I make a recipe for Tempeh Napoletano that uses sherry and herbs along with tempeh, onions, peppers, and a few other vegetables, so I had an idea of what I was going for.  But cooking eggplant is always a bit tricky.   As we were eating it, I wish that I had tossed the eggplant in oil prior to adding it to the onion and garlic, since it took a bit (a large bit) of salt to bring the flavor out. I think the tempeh works better in the original recipe because it has a stronger, nuttier flavor (and a firmer texture), which provides a nice contrast to the wine. The result here wasn’t bad by any means, it just could have used a bit of extra finesse to elevate it.

And this is where I come to my wish for 26 hour days.  It seems like most people I know feel hurried and overloaded these days, and I know I definitely do.  But with those two extra hours a day…I could spend time reading the new spice book I bought, delving deeper into the current issue of Saveur, researching different cooking techniques or new flavor combinations.  I could do some exploration on how to advance to cooking things that I’ve always been a bit trepid about – like fish (it just seems too easy to mess up). Would I actually spend the extra hours on this?  Who knows?  But it’s my daydream, so let’s say I would.  Of course, until someone figures out some spectacular time dilation technique to make this happen, I’m going to have some times where I totally make things up with less than tremendous results.  (And there’s the fact that a larger amount of study and preparation is not a guarantee of deliciousness, anyhow!)  As it turned out, this dish wasn’t too bad, and could be made better with a few changes.  The recipe below includes the extra olive oil I wish I had used, and a couple of tweaks to the cooking sequence that I would make.

Ingredients for Eggplant and Potatoes with Thyme

Eggplant and Potatoes with Thyme
serves 4

1+1/2 lb new potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 eggplant, chopped into 1/2″ cubes (about 3 cups)
1 large summer squash, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp dry sherry
8-10 basil leaves
8-10 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes either in a pan of boiling water on the stovetop, or in a glass bowl filled with water in the microwave (about 13 minutes in the microwave – but do check it every 5 minutes and give it a stir). When they are done, drain them and set aside.

Meanwhile, sprinkle 3 tsp (1 Tbsp) of olive oil over the eggplant, and toss to distribute the olive oil as best you can. Add a little salt and freshly ground pepper and toss again. Set aside.

Heat the remaining tsp of oive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30-60 seconds. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 more minutes until translucent. Add the eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, sherry and leaves from 4-5 of the sprigs of thyme. Cook until the eggplant and squash are tender, 10-12 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking time, chop the basil. Once the eggplant is tender, add the basil and leaves from the remaining thyme, and cook an additional minute or two.

Eggplant and Potatoes with Thyme

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