Friday, May 29, 2009

Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes, Plus a Very Important Question

(Readers! Leigh of Veggie Might fame is looking for suggestions for future columns. If you can buzz in with a few ideas, 'twould be ever so lovely. Woot!)

Normally, this is where we talk about food. But earlier this week, I had a dream. I was in the dream as myself, and a man – I couldn’t really see his face – asked me a clear, pointed question that I considered very seriously, but could not answer. Since then, I’ve spent my waking hours pondering the ins and outs of the inquiry, with no definitive conclusion.

That question was this: “Is Frankenstein technically a zombie?”

Compared to queries like “What is the soul?” and “Why is the sky blue?” it’s relatively minor, but SWEET BEA ARTHUR the dang thing’s been killing me. You can argue it every which way, and I’m borderline convinced there’s no real solution.

I’m tempted to say yes, Frankenstein IS a zombie, as he is reanimated tissue – a dead guy brought back to semi-life through artificial, somewhat supernatural means. His only real pastime is lurching, and while he doesn’t quite seem homicidal (as zombies naturally are), the possibility for destruction is always there. Essentially, he’s a mindless corpse, which is the very definition of a zombie.

The Husband-Elect argues that Frankenstein has a beating heart and a borderline working brain, making him fundamentally alive. (Zombies being mostly dead, with organ activity necessary only for movement.) Furthermore, he says the Monster can be killed, where as zombies must be chopped into itty-bitty pieces to end their terrible quest for nourishment. Finally, H-E claims Frankie DOES, in fact, have human qualities that separate him from the shuffling hordes. His exact quote: “He craves knowledge, not brains.”

So … I don’t know. I can see both points, and it’s making me crazy. Readers, do you have any light to shine here? Because I’ll sleep better knowing one way or the other.

With that done, let’s get to the food: Serious Eats' Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes is a tasty, simple Italian dish with deep flavor developed quickly. It makes good use of in-season vegetables, and the sauce can be altered any number of ways to fit your liking. If you should give it a shot, know the following:

1) To be able to cut back on the olive oil, I used a nonstick skillet. If you use a non-nonstick skillet, more fat might have to be involved to prevent burning.

2) After 15 minutes sautéing by themselves, my eggplant and zucchini were mostly cooked, but could have used a little more time. That’s noted in the directions.

3) We got two dinners and two office lunches out of this, so I think it could definitely make four separate meals. For heartier eaters, the three portions are plentiful.

4) Both Frankenstein and zombies would enjoy the dish, though they might prefer it with a side of brains.

And that’s it for the week. Hope y’all have a lovely weekend filled with summer vegetables and deep philosophical questions about fictional monsters. Really, it’s the only way to live. (To LIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!)

Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes
Serves 3 to 4
Adapted from Serious Eats.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (vegetable oil also acceptable)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano (or Italian Seasoning, though beware of rosemary sticks)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound eggplant, ends removed and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound zucchini, ends removed, sliced into 1-inch slices
3/4 pound pasta
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup parmesan

1) In a medium pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, until you can smell it. Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper. Boil. Once it's boiling, drop heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) While that's happening, in a separate large, nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini, and a little salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are a bit browned and softening up, 15 to 20 minutes.

3) Pour tomato sauce into eggplant mixture. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts to dry out, add pasta water. About that pasta...

4) While the sauce and eggplant mixture is coming together, cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain.

5) When tomato/eggplant mixture is done, pour pasta in a large bowl. Pour tomato/eggplant mixture on top of it. Top with cheese.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
Three servings: 658 calories, 14.4 g fat, $1.67
Four servings: 493 calories, 10.8 g fat, $1.25

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.23
2 cloves garlic, chopped: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes: 254 calories, 2.4 g fat, $1.39
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped: 5 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.44
2 tablespoons dried oregano: 18 calories, 0.6 g fat, $0.21
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 pound eggplant, ends removed and chopped into 1-inch cubes: 109 calories, 0.9 g fat, $0.97
1/2 pound zucchini, ends removed, sliced into 1-inch slices: 36 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.45
3/4 pound pasta: 1217 calories, 6.1 g fat, $0.50
Salt and black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 cup parmesan: 86 calories, 5.7 g fat, $0.68
TOTAL: 1973 calories, 43.3 g fat, $5.01
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 658 calories, 14.4 g fat, $1.67
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 493 calories, 10.8 g fat, $1.25

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