Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cooking With Books: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato with Pine Nuts in Mustard-Balsamic Vinaigrette

I'll admit that eggplant is not my favorite vegetable. To my mind, it's best fried, and then drenched in marinara sauce and topped with gobs of mozzarella. I don't think that's supposed to be the idea though.

The book that today's recipe comes from is one of my favorite Half Price Books finds. (I've found several great vegetarian/farmers market-type cookbooks there in the last couple of years.) This one, colorfully titled Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables is a collection of recipes (and stories) from a community supported farm in Illinois. The recipes, organized by growing season, are interspersed with stories, philosophies, nature facts, and much more that helps connect you as cook with the food as crop. The best kind of cookbook.

There are also two invaluable charts among the informative appendices: storing methods for most vegetables and a list of herbs and spices that are complementary to different vegetables.

This dish combines my dream recipe ingredients of eggplant and tomato, but adds crunchy pine nuts and a tangy vinaigrette in lieu of breading and gooey cheese. I'll take it.

(Other recipes I have tagged to try soon: Soy-Ginger Dressing with Honey, Lemon and Cilantro; Baked Zucchini Halves Stuffed with Wild Rice and Quinoa; and Pungent Green Beans and Tomatoes with Cumin, Garlic and Ginger.)

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato with Pine Nuts in Mustard-Balsamic Vinaigrette
From Farmer John's Cookbook.
Makes 4 servings.

1/4 cup roughly chopped pine nuts or slivered almonds
olive oil
1 pound eggplant (about 1 medium)
1/2 pound ripe tomatoes (about 2 small or 1 large), stems removed, seeds squeezed out, diced
1/4 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons prepared grainy mustard
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Toast the nuts in a dry, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until they start to brown in spots and become fragrant, about 1 minute. (Be careful not to burn.) Immediately transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.

Brush a baking sheet with a light coating of olive oil. Cut eggplant lengthwise into six or eight slices. (If using a large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and then again lengthwise into slices.)

Arrange the eggplant slices on the baking sheet. Pile the diced tomatoes around the eggplant. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the eggplant is soft, 30 to 40 minutes.

Mix the juice, balsamic vinegar, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Slowly pour the olive oil in in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until the dressing is thick and no longer separates.

Remove the vegetables form the oven and flip the eggplant over with tongs. Spoon about two-thirds of the mustard dressing over the cut surfaces. Set the baking sheet aside to let the vegetables cool.

When the eggplant has reached room temperature, transfer several slices to four individual plates. Divide the tomatoes evenly among the plates and drizzle the remaining dressing over the tomatoes to taste. Sprinkle on the toasted nuts and season each serving generously with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

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