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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Try cooking with eggplants

You can find eggplants in stores year round. Peak season for them is the months of July through October. My mother always cooked an Eggplant dressing for the winter holidays. It is one of my families favorite dishes.

Here are a couple of recipes using this purple skinned vegetable: Stuffed Eggplant Soup and Penne Pasta with and Eggplant, Tomato and Roasted Garlic sauce. The pulp of the eggplant absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients. You will often find tomatoes paired with eggplants, like they are paired together in these two recipes.

This is a twist on a classic eggplant preparation. It is not as labor intensive as stuffing eggplants. You get the same flavors with a lot less work. Try it and see what you think.

Stuffed Eggplant Soup

2 sticks butter

6 cups eggplant, peeled and diced

2 cups onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup red bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

10 cups chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup andouille, cut into julienne strips

2 cups small shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Stir in the flour, cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the curry and rosemary. Add the stock a little at a time, blending well after each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Purée the soup, if you wish it to have a very smooth consistency, then return to the pot and add the heavy cream. Stir in the andouille and shrimp and cook just until the shrimp turn plump and opaque. Season to taste and garnish with the parsley and green onions.

Here is a great meat free entree. Packed with flavor, this pasta works great as an entrée or a side dish. If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

Penne Pasta with an Eggplant, Tomato and Roasted Garlic Sauce

2 medium eggplants (diced, salted and drained for 2 hours)

1/2 celery, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves roasted garlic, minced

6-oz tomato purée

1/3 cup olive oil

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 quart chicken stock

1/2 cup green onions, sliced

1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained

Sauté the eggplant, onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil. When tender, add the tomato purée, vegetable stock, thyme and bay leaf. Cook for 15-20 minutes over a low heat. Remove from heat and let cool. (Do not blend while hot!)

Purée this in a blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with penne pasta and green onions, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Roasted garlic is a great addition to any dish. By roasting the bulb, it sweetens the garlic. It gives garlic a smoother flavor.

Roasted Garlic

1 head of garlic

1½ tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about ½ inch off the top of the garlic head. Cut the roots so that the garlic will sit flat. Remove most of the skin from the garlic, but leave enough so that the cloves stay together. Place the garlic in a small baking pan, drizzle the olive oil over the top of the garlic and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Allow the garlic to cool before you handle it.

One day, I hope to share with you my mom’s Eggplant Dressing. I don’t have the recipe but am in the process of getting a copy of it. Until then, enjoy one of these recipes.

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