There’s no denying that it has been a sweet summer in the sugarcured kitchens. First there was my best purchase in recent memory: the ice cream maker. Then came my favorite coffee shop’s decision to put a bottle of simple syrup out beside the milk and sugar and my subsequent conversion from a diehard black iced coffee drinker to the sugary side. And then there’s the fact that Joanna sent me home with a box of brownies on Monday night and I’ve been eating them for breakfast all week, sure that the chocolate will help me cope with the length of my to-do list.
You readers deserve some savory, I thought, so I decided to share another summer pasta. Then I realized that what makes this particular pasta really special is the sweetener. Eggplant with honey and cinnamon… I have to tell you, it’s “different.” Some of you will know that this word has two meanings in the Midwesterner’s dictionary. In one sense, it’s about the meanest insult certain Iowans can muster. If someone tells me “Kate, that pasta you brought to the church potluck sure was different,” what they mean to say is “you probably shouldn’t even feed the leftovers to the dog for fear that he’ll get sick.” I mean to tell you that this recipe is different in a you-never-would-have-paired-these-flavors-but-they-totally-work sense of the word.
Up until a few years ago, I definitely would have called eggplant different in the “get it out of my sight before I vom” sense of the word. I eventually came around to the realization that eggplant is right up there with tofu as Best of Show in the flavor sponge department. While a flavor sponge may taste rather disgusting on its own (no judgment for those of you who eat raw unflavored tofu- you know who you are- but i might rather eat an actual sponge), it is a professional at melding interesting flavors. Enter honey, cinnamon, basil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and you have an amalgam of yum.
Roasted Eggplant Pasta (adapted from The Cowgirl Chef)
2 medium eggplants, skins on, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 T olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
18 oz of cherry tomatoes, halved
10 kalamata olives, halved and pits removed
1 t honey
One large pinch of cinnamon
One large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 oz fresh mozzerella, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 lb pasta (whole wheat works well)
1/2 c basil, sliced
Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the eggplant with oil, salt, and pepper and spread out on the pan. Roast the eggplant about 30 minutes, stirring a few times, until the edges are brown and it looks well-done.
While the eggplant is roasting, put a little oil (a few teaspoons) in a skillet and cook the garlic and red pepper over medium heat just until you can smell the garlic, not until it begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, honey, olives, and cinnamon. When the eggplant is roasted, add that too.
Cook your pasta until al dente, drain it, and add it to the skillet with the sauce. Stir until pasta is coated and add the cheese and basil at the last minute. Serve hot or warm.