I fear you have become like a long lost pen-pal. That I should begin every post with apologies for not writing more. I could give excuses- and say, that i’ve been lazy– that i’ve started, as chrissy would say “to make food” more than cook. Or that- in perhaps a growing comfort in the kitchen- i’ve relied less on recipes– and become more like the people i used to despise— using a dash of this and glug of that. measurements too imprecise to pass on to you, dear reader. But instead of these quibbles, i will offer you something better. A recipe. This comes from the Ottolenghi cookbook- Plenty- which happens to be vegetarian- Special Thanks to Kara– who gave me this cookbook for my last bday. This recipe is easy to put together— but it tastes like something i’d be willing to pay for in restaurant. the author says his mother loves to show off with it when she has guests over. the combination of eggplant and mango- with a lime-spiked dressing is refreshing- perhaps characteristic of a summer dish. boston is cold. but fuck it, this shit tastes good.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 garlic cloves
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped [i subbed a big pinch of red chili flakes]
1 tsp sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4 in. dice [mine weighed roughly 1 pound each]
8 to 9 0z soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/4 inch dice or 1/4 in thick strips [i used about 3/4 of a pound- sold pre-cut from whole foods- which i then sliced into strips.
1 2/3 basil leaves, chopped (ottelanghi writes if you can get thai basil- use it- but use much less of it)
2 1/2 cups of cilantro leaves, chopped [i will admit- this is a lot of herbs- and didn’t use all, so it’s ok if you are a little scant]
1/2 onion, thinly sliced.
1 cup sunflower- if frying eggplant- i did not.
in a small saucepan, gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to a minute, just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add garlic, chile and sesame. Allow to cool and then add lime zest and juice.
original recipe is to shallow fry the eggplant in three to four batches- once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain. HOWEVER- I decided to bake the eggplant- because I always find frying it problematic. I chopped, put in a colander- liberally salted- and left for an hour to drain. Then, I rinsed the eggplant, squished dry in paper towels. Put on a baking sheet- doused with olive oil [just a couple glugs :)- no need for a cup], salt and pepper- and baked in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes.
Cook noodles in boiling salted water- stirring occasionally- takes about 5-8 minutes- until tender but al dente [don’t overdo.] Drain and rise well- running under cold water. Shake off as much water as possible- then put on a dry dish towel to further drain.
in a mixing bowl- toss noodles, dressing, mango, half the herbs and the onion. you can leave this for an hour or two. then when ready to serve add rest of herbs- pile on plate or bowl.