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roasted eggplant with golden raisin pine nut vinaigrette and feta cream (adapted from Barbara Lynch’s Stir)

This is a three-part post. Parts II & III are after the recipe.

Part I - Joy

We are so pleased to be part of a group of more than 50 bloggers participaing in “Share Our Holiday Table.’ As our friends, Debra and The Professor, over at Smith Bites say it, this is a “virtual progressive dinner party to raise awareness and funds to support Share Our Strength’s ‘No Kid Hungry Campaign’ that is taking place through December 14th. Please click here for more information as well as to make a contribution if you can – even a small donation will help feed a child.” Perfectly said, friends.

We signed up for the vegetarian main course because we have so many friends who don’t eat meat. This has become our signature vegetarian dish when those friends come to visit. It screams comfort, with the roasted eggplant melding perfectly with the feta cream, all of it getting a sweet + salty + savory punch from the golden raisin and pine nut mixture. 

We’ve adapted this into a casserole from Barbara Lynch’s recipe in her book Stir. It’s great right out of the oven or served warm (you can take it out a little early from the oven to make room for one of the other great recipes posted in Part II of this post as part of “Share Our Holiday Table”...)

Notes on this recipe:
  • [Updated] For those of you non-pescetarians who don't eat anchovies, Carol Peterman has great ideas in the comments below for substituting porcini mushrooms or sundried tomatoes for them. Love that. Thanks, Carol. I've included your ideas in this update.
  • We like using goat’s milk in this, but feel free to use heavy cream instead.
  • Small- to medium-size eggplants work very well. The giant ones might be too eggplant-y for this one.

Recipe | Roasted Eggplant with Golden Raisin Pine Nut Vinaigrette and Feta Cream (adapted from Barbara Lynch’s Stir)

  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1-inch square, but don’t obsess over getting them perfectly cut) If they have thick skins, you might want to peel them.
  • 3 T + ½ c olive oil
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 1 c. goats milk (or heavy cream)
  • 10 oz. feta cheese crumbled
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovoy filets, rinsed and chopped finely OR a handful of chopped porcini mushrooms OR 6-8 oil-packed sundried tomatoes
  • 1 c pine nuts (or a little less. They can be expensive.)
  • 6 T sherry vinegar
  • Assuming you have salt and pepper on hand
Preheat the oven to 375F while you chop the eggplant. Get out a baking sheet and lay down some aluminum foil or parchment for easy clean up. Spread out the eggplant pieces into a single layer (use another sheet if you have extra). Sprinkle the 3 T of olive oil on top followed by some salt and pepper. Use your fingers to toss it all together and spread it back into an even layer. Toss it in the oven for 30 minutes, checking around 20 min to see how things are doing. You want the eggplant almost browned (almost).

While the eggplant is roasting, throw the raisins into a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them hang out for a while. 10 minutes or so.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, heat up the goats milk to a simmer. Dump in the cheese and whisk or stir. Melt the feta down as much as you can until you’re bored. Maybe 7-10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the lumps. You can press the feta cream chunks in the strainer to break them up some more. Leave no goodness behind. Then set aside and move on...

In a smallish saute pan, heat up a tiny bit of the reamining oil. Medium heat.

If using the anchovies - get the anchovies in there first and stir/break them up even more. 

If using the mushrooms or sundried tomatoes - add in the mushrooms or sundried tomatoes (heck, why not both) and  sauté for 2 minutes.

OK, everyone back from your "pick your own adventure?" Then add in the shallots and garlic. You’re looking to make them tender, not brown them. Stir for about 5 minutes or so. Put them in a bowl (to which you will add some other things, so a medium bowl should be fine).

Drain the raisins. Dump the newly plumped raisins into the shallot garlic mixture. Throw in the pine nuts with no regard for their feelings. Add the vinegar. Then the remaining olive oil. Mix/whisk. Check for salt and pepper.

In a baking dish (casserole or 9x13), spread in a few drops of olive oil. Add a layer of eggplant pieces. Taste a piece of the eggplant. How’s the salt? Does it need more? Adjust if it does. Spread on half of the feta cream. Add on the golden raisin mixture. Add on the remaining eggplant. Then the cream. Then the golden raisins.

Shove the dish into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the pine nuts don’t burn.


Part II - So many great recipes! Check out these wonderful posts from the other Share Our Holiday Table bloggers.

December 10: Entrees
Family Friendly
Gluten Free

December 9: Soup

Family Friendly

Gluten Free

Find links to all of the amazing posts here.

Part III - Hurrying past reality

I felt like a bit of a fraud writing this post. So here goes...

Two nights ago, I was at the checkout of the grocery store, which is two blocks away from our house. We needed milk and sundried tomatoes and bananas. I grabbed a few more things for good measure (fresh mozz, some goat cheese, and Cheerios). I was in a hurry and had run out of the house in my red Crocs which I don’t gerneally allow myself to be seen in public wearing. This kids hadn't taken their naps that day, and I promised Karen that I’d put the kids to bed to give her a break. I had put the girls to bed, and I had 20 minutes to shop and get back to put our son to bed. We needed the milk for the kids in the morning, so the trip wasn’t optional.

20 minutes. I was in a race against the clock to get home in time to get him on the potty, brush his teeth, and read him a story which lately has been the Toys R Us catalog. He memorizes every item and can now tell me what the toy is on demand.

I have my items, the one I need (milk) and the ones I didn’t (everything else). And I’m looking for a line to checkout quickly. And things are moving slowly because they are moving slowly. No one is doing anything wrong or not doing their jobs or asking to write a check or anything. It’s just taking time to get everyone through the checkout. Apparently, this grocery store had not synced their pacing to my individual needs. Which I know is unreasonable. But I know my energy was projecting that I was really hoping everyone in the store could focus on my particular time schedule and GET THINGS MOVING, please. Faster. Thank you.

I had four minutes left to get home on time when I finally placed my items on the belt. Three minutes left when I swiped my card. I bagged. Reusable that I brought with me, if you care.

And as I place my last item in the bag (2 minutes left), the cashier asked me if I’d like to donate to the local food pantry.

No. Nope. I am in a hurry. It’s been a very long day, and the kids didn’t sleep, and I have to get home, and get pajamas on this boy and you don’t know what that takes some days. So no. I have 90 seconds left. Could you just please give me my receipt. I need to go. The clock is ticking and I can make it because I’m two blocks from home. I can do it. So no.

All of that was my internal monologue. I think I just mumbled something to her about “Not this time.” I grabbed my bags and nearly ran out of the store.

I made it home in time. Perfect.

After I got our son in bed, I remembered I had to write this post to ask you to donate to Share Our Strength. This from the guy in the red Crocs who didn’t have 30 seconds to spare to give to the local food pantry. Who could have donated $10 alone had I redirected the unnecessary cheese purchases. Who thinks his world is hard, but reality does not reflect this. Not when I’m honest. Not when I’m buying goat cheese.

In case life hadn't made my hypocrisy abundantly clear, Karen started telling me about the episode of Long Way Round, a TV show that documents Ewan McGregor and his best friend going across the world on motorcycles to raise money for charity. In this episode, the pair had visited a building in Russia where abandoned and orphaned children lived in heating ducts of a large building. Where children become adults at the age of five. Where a boy our son’s age was responsible for caring for and feeding a sister the age of our daughters.

I have time. I can make time. I am fortunate beyond words. And I forget that sometimes in the rush of life. And I need to remember that all of us are a decision or two away from needing the people in my community to help me. Help us. Help us survive.

And so. In a big pile of humility, may I ask you, if you are able to do it, could you please give to Share Our Strength? I know many of you already give generously to charities, to friends, to family. And some of you really are living paycheck to paycheck, with the weight of your reality pressing down on you.

But if you are able to give, could you take 30 seconds and donate? Maybe two minutes? Share Our Strength does incredible work through out the year helping people make it to the next day.

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Reader Comments (15)

of course you can quote us! and may i just say that this dish is going to be on our next 'must make'! i must have speed-read thru this one in the Stir book but boy, howdy, it looks FAB-YOU-LESS!!!

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSMITH BITES

I've heard so much about the "Stir" cookbook that I have asked Santa for it - after seeing this recipe I know I will love it!

I am so happy to be participating in the progressive dinner party as well.
For what it is worth, we have all been in that situation - you are not a fraud but simply human!!!

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Such a treat to be in this with bloggers such as you ;) Nice recipe for the vegetarian track. Will have to come back and check your blog out!

-Lexie | Lexie's Kitchen

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

I would have never thought of putting all these flavors together, but it looks delicious and veggie-licious.

Wait. WAIT. You signed up for "vegetarian main dish" and made something with anchovies in it???

Assuming I actually want to make this FOR MY VEGETARIAN, do you have a substitution suggestion?

(Yes, I do find the anchovies in your vegetarian dish more egregious than the red crocs or not donating just then. Just so you know. But I still love you.)

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMir

Comment Part I: Great looking vegetarian dish although I would definitely have to pass on the anchovies...sorry.

Comment Part II: It's wonderful that you are a part of raising awareness etc., through *Share Our Table* and encouraging others to do what they can to support the ever increasing needs of *Share Our Strength*. While it is hard not to feel guilty for not giving at the check-out (especially after coming home to the recap of the show from Karen) Remember that you are helping both causes simply through your participation and this post. A missed opportunity is not always a lost opportunity.

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

This looks beautiful. As Mir said, vegetarians will likely take issue with the anchovies. I might add some porcini mushrooms or sundried tomatoes in place of them.

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Peterman/TableFare

What a fantastic dish!!!! And a great veggie entree (but it works wonderfully as a side, I bet).

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA Thought For Food

Yum oh yum oh yum. And thanks for putting things in perspective for me today!

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Chris - Thanks for posting this recipe. It's delicious and now I can share it with my family and friends. Score! had me howling and then nodding my head in Part III. We're all fixated on the tasks of every day life and sometimes the important things fly right by us. Bravo to you that you stopped and remembered that we're all so fortunate and we need to share that with others. This is one of my favorite posts ever. A big hug to you my friend.

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy @SensitivePantry

What if you had thrown a couple of bucks in your rush to the clerk at that store? Maybe there is greater learning in that experience than if you had given so give yourself a break. We all do such human things we regret but if in that regret we forge a change...than I see no reason for regret Chris!

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara l Vino Luci Style

and now coming back to read parts II & III . . . this, this right here is exactly why i love you and Karen soooo much. i just don't think you realize how being raw and vulnerable elevates you both to a whole other level.

what would have been sad, (IMHO) would be to have still had the store experience, skated home in the nick of time, put the boy to bed, yadda yadda and then never given another thought about the incident. instead what happened is that you became present/aware/convicted enough to be both humbled and grateful; then took the situation one step further, shared/confessed it with the rest of us and still asked for donations. you could have written the post and left that part out . . . but you didn't . . . and believe me Chris, i find myself in similar situations daily . . . several times in fact . . . where my patience is thin and i just want everyone to get out of my way.

so. you are human and you're flawed and you make mistakes and you wear red crocks out in public. so you're just like the rest of us . . . well except maybe the red crocks part . . .

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSMITH BITES

First, let me thank our initial commenters who pointed out we shouldn't play loose with definitions. In our original post, we included a strong urging to use anchovies as part of the recipe, and that wasn't helpful or respectful of vegetarians (clearly, our friends are pescetarians who we made this for, and we should have been more sensitive). We think your suggestions made this a better post/recipe, and we thank you all for that.

Second, thank you all for your kind comments. As a follow up to some of the comments letting me off the hook...I don't beat myself up for not donating every time I'm asked. But the absurdity of saying no simply to meet some unnecessary deadline and then coming home to write a post asking our readers to donate was too much. It felt wrong. But it felt right to come clean about the reality outside of a blog post and share it with you all.

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC Thornton

What a fabulous looking dish! We try to eat meatless a few days a week, and I will definitely have to add this dish to my rotation. I'm always happy to try new vegetarian dishes. Lovely!

December 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ My Kitchen Addiction

This looks delish! We are vegetarian and always looking for new ideas. Too bad the Mister is so averse to eggplant!!

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUrvashee@Dessarts

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