Poor Mama. She’s had a lot of “Misses” of late and has had to resort to her backup supply of purees and other mashed foods. Maybe she’s letting me graze too much during the day on things like fruit, cheese, and organic cereals. Or maybe I’m just being a picky baby.
But this weekend she made something that surprised even me. Eggplant has been hit or miss. “Baby” ganoush—miss. Ratatouille—hit. Last night she sliced a few eggplants, sprayed them with olive oil, and grilled them inside (even though it was gorgeous outside). While the slices cooked, she made a pesto to spread on them, telling me she’d have to substitute almonds for the pine nuts she was sure she had. She then made a filling with shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce, golden raisins, and some of the cooked eggplant chopped up. (She also cut up some kalamata olives for herself and me, for “on the side,” since Papa does not like them one bit.) She placed a bit of filling on one end of each slice of eggplant, rolled it up, and put each roll in a baking dish that had a little bit of sauce in it. Then she topped it all with more sauce, sprinkled more cheese over it, then baked it until the cheese turned golden. On the side, she made orzo, then grilled a pork chop for Papa.
I thought the eggplant was tender and flavorful, and the orzo was so much more pleasing in texture than the brown rice Mama usually serves. Even Papa, who’s not always a fan of eggplant either, enjoyed it (though he said the olives threatened to “contaminate” the whole dish). What was even more of a surprise was that I ate the leftovers for lunch today, and I usually cannot abide leftovers. Live and learn.
(even Mama couldn’t come up with a more approximate recipe for this one—she just keeps tasting it until she gets it right)
[UPDATE: Mama finally sat down and drew up a recipe, which you can find here.]
About 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and torn or cut chiffonade
A couple tablespoons pine nuts or other favorite nut, toasted or not
A couple tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Juice of half a lemon, or so
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped (or more if you really like garlic)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Good extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse or blend until a paste forms. Stream in enough olive oil to give it body. The pesto should be intensely flavored, so that a little goes a long way. Adjust the tastes as you go along—you can always add more, but you can’t take away.
Note: Mama advises against toasting the nuts if you’re going to be baking the pesto, as in the eggplant dish, above. She also says that you don’t have to use basil—spinach, parsley, and arugula all work just as well.