Pasta Norma

I thank the Italians for this delicious dish featuring eggplant. I also thank Jamie Oliver for his delicious version, but I highly recommend including the optional Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes because they give the dish that *wow* factor that makes you want to eat the leftovers for breakfast, unable to wait all those hours until lunchtime. This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, but if you are ambitious you can make your use peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomatoes (I haven’t tried this so the cooking times may need to be adjusted).

Ingredients
2 large, firm eggplants
1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
Red chili flakes (optional)
4 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin
A large bunch of fresh basil: finely chop stems and cut leaves into ribbons; put in separate prep bowls
1 teaspoon good herb or white wine vinegar
1 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I like to use Muir Glen Organic’s fire-roasted and garlic & onion)
Oven roasted cherry tomatoes (optional – use as many as you like up to 6 ounces)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
6 ounces your favorite Italian-food-appropriate cheese for topping at the end (ricotta, pecorino, parmesan, etc.)

Directions

Eggplants
Cut eggplants lengthwise into quarters; if there are seedy, fluffy centers then gently use a spoon to remove.
Cut eggplant quarters into finger-sized pieces.
Heat a large, non-stick pan on medium-high and add a little oil.
Fry the eggplants in two batches, tossing to coat them with the oil and sprinkling each batch with some of the dried oregano; add more oil if needed.
Using a tongs, you’ll turn the eggplant until golden on all sides and place the 1st batch on a plate and begin the 2nd.
Once all eggplant is cooked, add the 1st batch back to the pan with the 2nd batch.

Norma Sauce
Add red chili flakes to the pan (optional)
Turn down the heat to medium and add a little oil, and stir in the garlic and basil stems.
Add a swig of your chosen vinegar and the cans of tomatoes (you can chop or food process them if they are too chunky for your taste).
Stir in the oven roasted cherry tomatoes (if using)
Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, lowering the heat if needed and adjusting the seasonings.

Spaghetti and putting it all together
While the sauce is cooking prepare your spaghetti according to package directions and heavily salting the water once it’s boiling.
When the spaghetti is cooked al dente then reserve about a cup of the cooking water.
Drain the pasta into a colander, place the pan back on the stove, and pour hot spaghetti from colander into the hot pot.
Add the Norma sauce to the pot and use reserved cooking water if needed to bring dish to desired consistency.
Toss together on the heat until heated through.

Serve sprinkled with the basil ribbons and freshly grated cheese (or bits of cheese if using a softer cheese such as ricotta).

Serves 4

Eggplant with Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese

Susan came up with this recipe even though she isn’t Greek!  It is quite simple and very tasty.  It think it works best with the Japanese (long, skinny, purple) eggplants but I suppose it could work with any eggplant.

Ingredients
2 Japanese Eggplants cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 jar Kalamata olives, pitted (about 4 oz)
4 oz block Feta Cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil

Directions
Cook eggplant in olive oil until tender
Add kalamata olives
Heat through
Remove from heat
Add feta cheese
Mix and serve warm