Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Fairytale Ending

As some readers may remember, I recently tried to become a bigger fan of eggplant. Well, last weekend I found something that makes it an ingredient that's impossible not to love. One lone stall at the farmers market had a basket full of what I consider to be the single most adorable piece of produce I've ever seen. A small crowd huddled around the basket, where one woman was furiously digging through its contents. As I inched closer I saw that it was only half full with small purple orbs. A sign above the basket announced that they were fairytale eggplant, and the last batch of the season. After elbowing my way to the front I noticed that they were in fact super tiny eggplant, about the size of my thumb.

After a quick conversation with the woman digging through the basket I learned that fairytale eggplant is actually not that uncommon and many people with a green thumb grow it right in their own backyard. Evidently they're easy to cultivate and have a creamier, less bitter taste than their larger counterparts, not to mention they cook up even faster. Sufficiently intrigued, I joined the woman in digging through the basket so I could bring home my own batch of adorably tiny eggplant. Not wanting to mess too much with its flavor (I really wanted to get a feel for the difference between fairytale and regular eggplant), I decided to use it in a light, quick and simple pasta preparation.

First I heated up some extra virgin olive oil and garlic with red pepper flake for about a minute over low heat, then added the eggplant. Meanwhile, I cooked up some angel hair and in a non-stick skillet, toasted some seasoned breadcrumbs in olive oil and set them aside. When the pasta was done I added it to the pan with the eggplant, tossed it all together and threw in a few olives and some pasta water. I topped the whole thing off with a few swirls of olive oil, then tossed in the toasted breadcrumbs (off the heat) for a little crunch. A topping of fresh parsley later and I had a light and simple dinner. The eggplant was in fact creamier and lighter than the larger version. Come to think of it, if the fairytale version were more readily available, I think I would just convert to it altogether. And that, my friends, is how eggplant and I lived happily ever after.

Pasta with Fairytale Eggplant, Breadcrumbs and Olives

2 servings pasta (I used angel hair)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 cups fairytale eggplant, chopped
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 cup olives (I used kalamata), roughly chopped
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick skillet along with garlic and red pepper flake. Cook for a minute, then add eggplant and cook until softened.

2. Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of olive oil along with breadcrumbs in another non-stick skillet and cook until browned (they burn easily, so keep an eye out). Set aside.

3.When the pasta is cooked, add it to the skillet with the eggplant, reserving some of the pasta water. Add olives and a few tablespoons of pasta water to create a thin sauce. Toss together and remove from the heat. Add remaining tablespoon of oil and breadcrumbs, tossing to coat. Top with fresh parsley and serve. Enjoy!


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