The new year is interesting, especially when you’re making it apply to yourself. It gets personal. It needs to be personal. If it’s not personal, there’s no reason to bother really.
And it’s totally tough, I’m not going to lie. It’s hard being different. Not different-unique, but different-from-the-way-you-usually-run-your-life. Healthy. Productive. (More) Organized.
I’m going to have to go to the grocery store tomorrow, and this month we have to practice a special kind of frugality because of the absurd bills we will be paying. Because of this, I am going to take time today to plan what I will make during the week – enough for dinners and lunches – that way I don’t waste any money at the grocery store.
Last night, for example, I used an eggplant and a bag of cremini mushrooms that desperately needed to be cooked.
My life would be a lot easier if I was better at planning. And I consider it a pretty good start to the year that I haven’t already abandoned any goals. I also have plans for some yoga later.
Making this pasta last night also made me feel very good and accomplished. I get a little slack about cooking in the winter, sometimes. Mostly it’s because I get a little slack about everything in the winter. But when I actually get up and do something, I remember how much I enjoy doing it and that I just have to get passed me a little bit to really enjoy myself.
Funny, isn’t it?
My parents brought this beautiful bag of pasta back from Italy last March. I’d been sitting on it because I wanted to use it in something where the colors would be appreciated. I also really wanted to get to show you, so I wanted to do something good with it.
Admittedly, this was a tad spontaneous, but I realized I only had this and a box of lasagna noodles in the pantry, so I could either make rice or this pasta. Pasta is just so much better with piccata, I think.
Mushrooms and eggplant are also not the prettiest vegetables in the patch once they start to cook. This piccata needed a little bit of color to dress it up a little on the plate. Regular pasta, while delicious, would have made for a rather drab looking dish.
I also have plenty of leftovers for tonight, which is lovely. I’ve been spending a lot more time writing – nonfiction and short fictional sketches – and knitting, both things I hope to pursue with a lot more seriousness this coming year. I feel like drinking a pot of coffee and letting out a lot of pent up creative energy.
It feels good to do.
Make a lot of pasta, have some coffee or tea, and do what you love to do. It’ll make 2011 that much better. Hope you are all off to a good start this year, with or without resolutions.
Vegetarian Piccata w/ Eggplant and Mushrooms
1 lb. Pasta – reserve 1 cup water at the end of cooking
Whatever kind you like really. Colorful pasta makes the dish look prettier, but it’s not entirely necessary. I could even see using those lasagna noodles and layering them with the sauteed veggies and some sharp cheese – like aged provolone – in a baking dish.
1 Eggplant – roughly diced
If you wanted to be a little more traditional, you could cut the eggplant on the bias in longer, thicker slices – then dredge them in flour and then egg, fry them, and top them with the sauce made from the other ingredients. For a healthier version, you can roast the slices instead of frying them.
1 Package Mushrooms – sliced
Since this dish is traditionally made with chicken or veal, choosing a nice meaty vegetable is important. Tofu can even be used, I’m sure. Or even pan frying or roasting some of those big portobello mushrooms.
1/2 Onion – Diced
1 Lemon – Juiced and Divided
Use only half of the lemon juice total if you want a lighter lemon flavor. Really, I wish I had used another lemon, but I really like that lemon flavor. I think next time I would even add a little bit of zest, not a lot, maybe half a teaspoon, to the sauteeing eggplant.
1/2 Jar Capers
I love capers. I don’t think they’re used widely enough (I think I might just need to do some more searching). Regardless, I tend to use a lot of capers. It’s a nice vinegary bite that pairs extremely well with the lemon in this dish. If you’ve never used capers before or like a more mild flavor, use at least half of this measurement. Starting with less is always a good idea, you can always add more.
1/4 Cup Vegetable Broth
Truth: I used chicken broth – apologies, I just never buy veggie broth. But if this is a truly vegetarian recipe, you should use veggie broth. If you use dehydrated porcini mushrooms, or the like, I would use some of the liquid for flavor – maybe a few tablespoons and then some vegetable broth because you don’t want to overwhelm the lemony-vinagary flavor of the piccata.
4 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs Unsalted Butter
1 Big Handful of Parsley – Chopped, reserve a few pinches for garnish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Add the eggplant, stir to coat, and then let brown – about three minutes.
- Add the onion and some salt. Cook 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Add half of the lemon juice and all the capers. Stir and cook about a minute.
- Add the mushrooms, stir and cook about three minutes, until they start to soften.
- Add the vegetable broth. Drop the heat to low and stir occasionally until the pasta is finished cooking. Remember to reserve some of that cooking liquid!
- Drain the pasta.
- Add the remaining lemon juice, butter, and parsley to the eggplant and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
- Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add some of the reserved cooking water if the sauce isn’t loose enough.
- Serve with some extra parsley and a light dusting of pecorino.
Happy New Year!