Your parents drive 2 hours down to your house just for dinner on a Sunday afternoon. It also happens to be your mother's birthday you're celebrating, but she doesn't bat an eye.
This mother, whose skill and comfort level in the kitchen you can only hope to achieve some day, not only travels to her own birthday celebration, but she also cooks her own birthday meatballs, along with enough sausage and homemade sauce to literally feed a family of 13. You would too, though, if you made sauce like hers. But let's recap: She volunteered to make her own birthday feast, just to help you out.
Your sister and her boyfriend who live in Manhattan (a.k.a. the center of the universe) make the trip down the night before just to go on a double date. They ignore the fact that their journey involved a missed bus, a GPS from 1932, and several wrong turns on growling stomachs. Your other sister and her boyfriend also make the trip down, after spending the night before at their alma mater. On only a few hours' sleep, their trip is twice as long, and somehow involves wrong turns as well.
(I'm thinking, though, that you sisters should take proactive measures to learn how to get to my house. I've been living here for a year and a half. I'm not moving any time soon.)
A double set of parents, 3 sets of siblings/significant others, and a cheerful Granny squeeze around your new dining room table, overlooking mismatched place settings and paper napkins, and forgiving having to pile dinner, salad, and Granny's homemade applesauce all onto one plate.
"Good thing we're all right-handed!"
-Brother-in-law, on trying to eat a meatball without elbowing his girlfriend in the face
They bring you flowers. They help you clean up. They come with wine. They compliment your food. They watch your TV and like your cat. They spend their afternoon filling your home with warmth. Then they all make the drive home, and send you emails and text messages thanking you for the day.
Little do they know that you didn't do anything, because they're the ones that made your day.
Ok, that's not entirely true. I did make a few small bites, like this caramelized onion and gorgonzola tart. If you like gorgonzola, and if puff pastry just warms your little heart, then make this for your next party. I can't take credit for the recipe, but I will take credit for the love that went into it. Those onions didn't just caramelize themselves! (Except they totally did.)
|Pre-baked! I never remember to take pictures of the after.|
And while I served the caponata as an appetizer, it would be a pretty amazing thing to put this magic eggplant concoction over pasta as an easy and healthy weeknight dinner. On a Monday night, there'll be no question where the love is at.
Eggplant Caponata Pasta
Inspired by Data Treat - Treat Yourself
Yields 4-6 servings
8 oz whole wheat linguine, uncooked
1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4" thick
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs brown sugar
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 tbs capers, drained
1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 c golden raisins
1-14 oz can petit diced tomatoes in their juices
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 1 or 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray with cooking spray. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheets, and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Once cool, chop and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, and set aside, but reserve about 1/2 c of the pasta water.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with the oil. Add the celery, onion, and garlic, and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring often, until soft but not brown.
Add the tomato paste, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to evenly coat the veggies.
Add the brown sugar, vinegar, capers, olives, raisins, and tomatoes, and cook for another 6-8 minutes, stirring often.
Add in the roasted eggplant, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine and heat through. Remove from the heat, and add the basil and the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
Toss the caponata over the pasta, and serve immediately.