Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

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Linguine with Prawns

My husband, Jesús, always orders this dish at Italian seafood restaurants. This is an easy Friday night dinner, especially if you use the jarred sun-dried tomatoes. Fill a couple of wine glasses and light some candles. Sip a bit of wine while you’re cooking to get in the mood.

serves 4

1/2   package linguine

1 Tb olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 sprig  or about 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 Tb dried oregano or 2 Tb fresh oregano

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes reconstituted in oil or water (see below)

1 pound large raw shrimp (26-30 shrimp per pound), (deveined unless you want a lot of work for yourself.)

1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay is nice) (or liquid from reconstituting sun-dried tomatoes)

pinch of salt, to taste

6 cups spinach leaves (1 bunch spinach), stems removed

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

6 leaves fresh basil, torn, about 2 Tb

1 lemon (Meyer is nice) juice and grated peel

You can buy jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil (I got mine at Trader Joe’s) or reconstitute them yourself: Soak 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in a mixture of  ¼ cup warmed white wine and 2 Tb boiling water for 30 minutes until soft and pliable. Cut into strips, reserving soaking liquid.

Heat a large pot  of salted water to cook linguine.

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes.

While shrimp is defrosting, mince garlic cloves, oregano, and rosemary needles and gather ingredients.

Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup water.

While linguine is cooking, heat 1 Tb olive oil  in wok or large heavy frying pan. Sauté garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and oregano for a minute, then add shrimp and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add salt, stemmed spinach leaves, basil,  sun-dried tomatoes, wine or soaking liquid from sun-dried tomatoes, and reserved water from cooking pasta. Squeeze a lemon and finely grate zest over shrimp. Cover pan and cook one more minute until shrimp turn bright orange and are opaque inside, and spinach is wilted, but still bright green. Toss with pine nuts and drained linguine. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Making a Pesto Myself with Dino Kale

Isn’t dinosaur kale cool looking? It looks like the scales on a green prehistoric beast. Kale is all the rage these days because it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. My daughter and I love it, but my husband and son are sick of it. So sometimes I need to be sneaky. I snuck some dinosaur kale into this pesto, and the guys didn’t even realize it was there. The pesto tasted great and had increased nutritious value. Although I usually make pesto in August from my homegrown basil leaves, I wanted to make this now, when the kale is flavorful from winter frosts.

1 cup dinosaur kale leaves, stems and ribs discarded

½ cup Italian parsley

1 ½ cups (1 bunch) fresh whole basil leaves, stems discarded

1 medium clove garlic

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp sea salt plus 1 tsp for pasta water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Heat a large pot with water and 1 tsp salt to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Remove stems and heavy ribs from kale and basil. Pulse kale leaves and parsley  in food processor. Add basil, garlic pine nuts and salt. Pulse until all ingredients are diced very fine. Add grated Parmesan. Pour in oil while machine is running. Stop and scrape the sides then pulse a final time.

Drain pasta and mix in pesto.

Tortellini Salad for 10 Hungry Dancers


As one of the parents bringing lunch for my daughter’s dance company rehearsal, I made this easy vegetarian tortellini salad today. I bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s (TJ). I used their frozen basil cubes because are superior to dried basil when it’s hard to find fresh basil in winter.

Ingredients:



1 pound fresh green beans

3 10-oz packages cheese tortellini

2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, slice in quarters

1 12-oz jar TJ artichoke heart antipasto

2/3 cup dry toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

red pepper flakes, several shakes to taste

1 lb green beans cut up. Cook with tortellini for 6 minutes

1 6-oz can sliced black olives

2 cubes each frozen minced garlic and basil (if fresh is available, use 2 tsp each, minced)

2 Tb fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 small lemons)

Trim ends and cut up fresh green beans into ½ inch pieces. Cook tortellini according to package directions: boil water, add 1 Tb salt and tortellini. Add green beans after tortellini has cooked for 2 minutes, then cook for 6 more minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

While tortellini is cooking, chop artichoke hearts and mix with pine nuts, olive slices, artichoke antipasto and parmesan in a bowl.

Drain pasta and green beans. Separate 2 cups of hot pasta and green beans and mix with frozen cubes of basil and garlic if using. (You can skip this step if using fresh basil and garlic; just add them in at the end.) Run cold water over the rest of the pasta and beans in a colander until cool. Combine tortellini and add artichoke mixture. Add a sprinkle of red chili pepper flakes and the lemon juice.