Sunday, January 04, 2009

something new, something old

It's been a frazzling two days or so; I've spent a fair amount of time in Evanston playing a freebie gig as a favor to somebody, and I also have some fairly difficult first rehearsals coming up in the next few days that I'm trying to prepare for. On top of that, my computer may or may not have something like forty-one horrible viruses. When did I get so bad with technology? These windows keep popping up talking about the forty-one viruses (virii?), and they look legitimate but I think in actuality they are not. I'll have to find somebody more tech-savvy and cook them dinner in return for a little maintenance. I'm all about bartering.

But anyway, so I've been feeling just slightly harried and unfocused, and it's not helping me learn Mahler 9 at all. So instead of trying to focus my poor mind tonight, I decided to opt for comfort food instead.

I've already had comfort food once today: an abbreviated version of Rose-Anne's Amazing Cheese Sandwich. In return for being a cat sitter for a week or so, my friends brought me back a loaf of fresh-baked rosemary bread all the way from Kansas. I used Port-Salud cheese picked up on a whim at Trader Joe's last week, Dijon mustard (Rose-Anne, please know that I have not made a mustard-less cheese sandwich since reading that recipe!) and tomatoes because I didn't have any spinach. I'm actually not a very good grilled cheese maker; I have a hard time getting both sides browned without burning anything, and I also have a tendency to add far too much cheese and the resulting spillage can be quite messy. Today, however, my sandwich came out as close to perfect as I could hope to get, brown on both sides and gooey in the middle with no fall-aparts. I used too much butter, but what the hell, it was delicious.

I continued the trend tonight by making what may be my oldest and most-cooked recipe: Aubergine-Chickpea Ragout. (Also known as Eggplant-Garbanzo Bean Ragout to the less-fancy-sounding.) I remember finding this recipe in my first-ever vegan cookbook (the somewhat mediocre Easy Vegan Cooking by Leah Leneman--some good recipes, but it's hard to tell which ones they are) and deciding to try it out. This was way back in the day, when I was just beginning to make a real effort to cook for myself in a vegan fashion, and I think my main purpose was to see if I could actually cook an eggplant. (I can!) In my memory, the eggplant chopping was a hellacious experience; I didn't know how to approach it, whether I could use the skin, how big the chunks should be, or whether all of that eggplant would fit in any pot I owned. But I sallied forth, tossing out most of the skin pieces just in case before dumping them in a pan with a little bit of hot olive oil. That was the first time I realized how much olive oil an eggplant can soak up, and I was kind of horrified. But after I added the garbanzo beans and canned tomatoes and simmered, I was sold. Served with rice, the dish was an instant hit with my housemates. It went into my first vegan cookzine as a matter of course. I kept making it regularly, adding more ingredients as it suited me, changing the spicing. But really, I think the original is best in this case. For me, this is right up there with mac-and-cheese or oatmeal. It warms my belly and reminds me of happy kitchen times in my crappy first house in Tucson.

Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant (should be firm and not too large, as they have more seeds)
1 small can garbanzo beans
1 large can petite diced tomatoes (this size works best for me, but regularly diced or even crushed works just fine)
olive oil as needed
1 tbs dried mint
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggplant into small cubes. You can salt these and cover them with paper towels for a few minutes to remove some of the bitterness. Heat up some olive oil in a large pan, making sure it's pretty hot, and then add the eggplant. It appears that the hotter the skillet the less oil you might need, so keep it sizzling and stir frequently. Add more oil if needed. (You can also use half water/half oil, which is healthier but I find works not quite as well. The only thing I don't like about this recipe is all the oil it uses.) After the eggplant is all more or less cooked and soft, add the drained garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over rice or with a crusty bread.

1 comment:

Rosiecat said...

Hurray for mustard! You're totally right about the cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches: if you can restrain yourself a little bit, you'll be rewarded with a perfect sandwich.

Can you believe I used to shun mustard as a child because I was convinced I wouldn't like it? I was SUCH a picky eater!