Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter, or, like 1 if you're as into it as me
- 1 pound eggplant, cut into ½-inch slices (bigger is OK)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I mean just flatten them, don't take out your aggression on them)
- 2 springs thyme or oregano, chopped, or a sprinkling of the dried stuff
- 1 cup liquid -- stock? Water? Whatever. I had some water leftover from cooking lentils, so I used that.
- 2 tablespoons dried tomatoes, minced -- sundried? Oven-dried? Your call.
- 6 leaves basil, cut fine
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pound long pasta -- spaghetti, linguini, whatever floats your boat
- Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let them hang out for about 20 minutes. This will season them and water will drip out, allegedly removing the bitterness, if it's there. They also say to choose eggplants that are dense and heavy for their size to make sure they're not bitter. But you know how I got mine to not be bitter? I ask the person that sells them to me, which, for me, means that I have to buy my eggplants from farmers' markets. Maybe you don't have quite the same amount of emotional work to do in readjusting your eggplant relationship. I'm glad for you.
- Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. You're just trying to get them friendly with one another, so don't worry if it just sits there and looks like nothing's happening.
- Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn the heat up to medium high, add thyme or oregano and stir. When the eggplant is turning translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn't stick.
- Meanwhile, bring water to boil, salt it, and cook your pasta.
- Check on your eggplant. Is the liquid mostly absorbed or reduced? It should be after about 20 minutes or so. Does it look good and mashable? Great. Mash it up with a spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Isn't it great? Silky smooth and garlicky and eggplanty and humming with oil? And totally stress-free! Amazing.
- Drain your perfect al dente pasta and toss with the eggplant puree. Stir in your minced tomatoes and basil and gild the lily with some more oil. Celebrate your new friendship.