roasted eggplant with golden raisin pine nut vinaigrette and feta cream (adapted from Barbara Lynch’s Stir)
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.
- 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
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.
- Ladles and Jellyspoons
- Two Dollar Dinners
- All About Alton Brown
- Cookie Central's Great American Bake Sale
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.