Meatless Mondays is a good idea – and while we don’t observe it religiously, we do have meatless meals throughout the week. The two best things about this candidate for a MM is that it is hearty, tastes good, and can easily assume the role of main dish or side. I like to use the long, skinny Japanese eggplants because the skins are tender enough that you don’t have to peel them. If you want, though, use a large eggplant and cut it into slices. To make it a main dish serve over rice or a grain pilaf, or toss with hot spaghetti and top with Parmesan cheese.
Pan-Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes
2 Japanese eggplants, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal, about 1/2-inch thick, or 1 large eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil, more if needed
Pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
1/2 yellow onion, peeled, sliced and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced thinly and diced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, sliced thin
1 7-ounce can tomato sauce
1 10-ounce can chopped or pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon mixed (dried) Italian herbs or 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh
1/4 cup dry white wine OR 2 tablespoons vodka
Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving
Prepare the eggplant slices and brush them with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and cayenne (to taste, if using). Put remaining oil into large, nonstick skillet and warm it up to medium-high heat. Put in the slices of eggplant, as many as will fit, and sear them well on both sides until they are lightly browned. Eggplant wants to absorb just about as much oil as you want to put in the pan, so add a little more if needed. Take the browned slices, which will be soft, out of the pan and set aside. When you have finished all of the slices of eggplant, add a little more olive oil, if needed, and put in the onion, garlic and red bell pepper. Cook these until they are softened, being careful to not brown or burn the garlic. Add the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes (if you have a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, put them into a bowl and work them with your fingers to make a rough puree, or pulse a few times in a food processor.)
Bring the tomatoes to a simmer, add the herbs and wine or vodka and season to taste. Let it reduce until it thickens somewhat. You want it to not be watery. Put in the eggplant and let the mixture reduce another 10 minutes or so. Serve as it is or use it as a sauce for rice or spaghetti.
Makes 6 or more servings.
From Bonnie Walker