I have hesitated for a long time in deciding whether or not I want to post recipes on this site. I’ve been back and forth about it, over and over again. There are a lot of recipe blogs out there. Some good and some bad. The good ones make me feel inspired to cook, but maybe a bit intimidated when it comes to actually writing about cooking, and the bad ones? Let’s just say that the bad ones leave me feeling like maybe the world doesn’t actually need another. I realized something though. No matter how many recipe posts I read, good or bad, I keep coming back for more. I am always on the lookout for great new recipes, and after reading so many I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of exactly what I think a great recipe is.
For me, it has to be simple. Too many ingredients or steps or overly complicated procedures and I’m out. And I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Plus, I find fussy food to be really unappealing. The food I love tends to be rustic and comforting and maybe even a little rough around the edges. Healthy and wholesome are always good. Anything deep fried or frosted in buttercream is kind of too far outside of my everyday diet to be truly useful. Also, I think I a great recipe needs to be impressive and not because it’s fancy or full of strange ingredients, but because it over-delivers relative to the amount of work and effort that it takes, because the ingredients come together in that elusively perfect way that makes the final product so much greater than the sum of it’s parts.
The first recipe I’m posting is all that and then some. It’s one of my absolute all-time favorites. I made it the very first night that P and I slept in the apartment we live in now (after hauling boxes and furniture all day long – I swear it’s that easy), and I’ve made it about a gazillion times since. Not to mention that it’s the perfect time of year for it, with the nights getting cooler and the last of the summer produce still hanging around. It’s dead simple, totally versatile and at the same time, kind of elegant. Exactly the way I think a recipe should be.
Roasted Eggplant with Chillies and Thyme (adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender)
In his book, Nigel Slater mentions that you could serve this as a side or a main course. To me, it’s always been a main course. The flavors are sort of bold and mellow at the same time, and I really think they deserve to stand on their own. It definitely needs starch though. I’ve served this with pasta, brown rice, polenta, quinoa and of course on grilled bread and all have worked fabulously. I imagine that it would taste good with just about any grain you could think of – pearled barley, faro, maybe even millet. Feel free to experiment.
- 1 large firm eggplant
- 3 or 4 small tomatoes (not heirloom, something meaty like dry-farmed early girls or san marzanos) or a handful of cherry tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 fresh red chile (chili flakes or dried chiles work in a pinch)
- 6 branches of thyme
- olive oil
- parmesan cheese
Cut the eggplant into chunks and place in a colander. Sprinkle over a truly generous amount of salt and leave to drain for about 30 minutes
Preheat your oven to 425. Pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel and place in a baking dish. Cut the tomatoes and pepper into rough chunks and add to the eggplant. Smash the with the side of a knife and throw that in too. Dice the chile up finely and add that as well. Finally, add the whole thyme sprigs to the pan and toss the whole thing around with generous amount of olive oil (I would say 3-4 tbsp at least. Eggplant needs a lot of oil in order to get all soft and squishy, which is kind of the whole point of this dish).
Place the pan into the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. Toss it around a bit every once in while, but not too much. You really want to let everything roast and caramelize together. You’ll know it’s done when all the vegetables are kind of mushy, but nice and brown and toasty at the edges. Serve over bread or grains or pasta dusted with a handful of parmesan cheese.