Friday, 21 March 2014

Springing for Joy!

Penne Primavera
Penne Primavera- with Eggplant, Olives, Capers, Tomato & Mixed Herbs

Never mind the cold and the rain- or indeed, the snow still in some parts of the world... because apparently it is now officially Springtime! So, shaking off my umbrella and shivering a little, finally relieved to be home after a full week at work, I was ready to put that all behind me and determined to start off the weekend with at least a little sunshine in my heart (and my plate) it is is not likely to be showing up in our skies this weekend...

Of course I worked with what I had left in the fridge, but fortunately I had some yummy stuff that went wonderfully together, nice Sicilian flavors, light and fresh and delicious- and full of memories of home, of the sunshine... and of the Springtime back home!

I had a lovely eggplant still waiting to be used, 2 young red onions, mint, parsley and marjoram, olives, capers and cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of salted Ricotta cheese... yes indeedy- that DOES sound pretty Sicilian, doesn't it? Which is not really all that much of a surprise I would think!

This is a very quick and simple meal to prepare- just 15-20 minutes depending on how speedy you are with your knife, as there is a little chopping to be done... but nothing to drastic! And in any case- the resulting meal makes that little bit of prep-work WELL worth your while!

Step one- get your water boiling, ready for the pasta- and step 2, peel, slice, dice and salt the eggplant. With the eggplant diced rather finely, just 5-6 minutes is enough time for the salt to do its stuff and after that time, you will see that it looks rather moist- which will be the bitterness being exuded by the salt. 

First things first- add a good pinch of salt to the water and when it begins to bubble like crazy again, add the pasta, give it a stir and then turn you attention back to the eggplant, which you can now wring out, simply squeezing with your hands and then transfer to a frying pan.

Add the finely chopped onion, a drizzle of olive oil, a little crushed garlic if you like and sautée at a high heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne and add the cherry tomatoes, finely chopped and 1 ladle of the cooking water from the penne to deglaze the pan. Keep the heat high and allow the water to boil away and soften the eggplant. 

Whilst this is happening, remove the pasta and set it to one side- after just 5-6 minutes it will still be a tad too al-dente to be good, but it is going to finish in the saucepan soon enough.

Now that the water has boiled away in the frying pan and the eggplant and onion are soft, add a tad more olive oil and a handful each of finely chopped mint and parsley, stir them in well before adding the pasta.

Stir the pasta in with the eggplant, onion, herbs and tomato and then add the olives and capers. Stir or toss the pasta until it soaks up and integrates all of the good flavors from the frying pan, then add a last ladle full of water, stir it in and allow the pasta to rest for a minute or so before serving.

Add a generous sprinkle of marjoram and pepper, a pinch or two of freshly grated Ricotta salata, a drizzle of olive oil here and there and you are ready to serve up a nice plateful of Springtime- yeah!

This is not only easy to make, but it is quick, delicious and healthy too- what's not to like? It is the herbs, olives and capers that bring the eggplant to life and the combination of these along with the pasta that make it a sure-fire Springtime dish. .. Which leaves me only to say "buon appetito!" and I hope you all enjoy it!

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