There was a song I used to sing in the bath: Everyone’s Gone to the Moon. Right now many of my online and real-life friends are heading off to the sweltering heat and excitement of San Antonio and it feels as if I really am on the far side of the planet. Please write and send post cards and drop us an email and tell us all about it when you get back. I have a piggy bank in which I have begun saving for the next international convention.
Flu is just flu, but it is lingering. Tonight I have to cook plaintains for a West African friend who will arrive here thrilled to be out in the countryside and will then lie awake listening to stange rustling noises in the garden and hating the all-enveloping silence and in the morning she will find a scorpion or gecko lurking in the bathtub and head back to citylights. She is an urban dweller who feels safer amidst the sprawling chaos of Lagos or Dakar and shudders at the threats lurking in remote country villages. Other than than that, and cooking floury plaintains, is always a challenge, I have no plans for the weekend and have cancelled a walk. If I feel better I shall work.
Chicken soup beats antibiotics. Other than litres of chicken soup, what I have been preparing for myself in a weak frenzy of happiness is a smooshed eggplant dish. This dish will not convert anyone to eating eggplant because it looks grey and grungy and awful, but it tastes wonderful I found it at Francis Lam and again at Wednesday Cook and adapted the recipe. I just eat it out of the pot with a spoon, adding lemon juice and plenty of black pepper..
Spaghetti with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Sauce
Serves 3 or 4
1 pound ripe glossy eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 springs fresh thyme or oregano, chopped
1 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes, minced
6 leaves fresh basil, torn up in small pieces
Salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon optional
1 pound spaghetti
1. Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat.
3. Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat everything with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to medium-high and add the thyme or oregano and stir. When the eggplant is turning greeny translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick.
4. After about 20 minutes or so, the liquid in the eggplant pan should be mostly evaporated and the eggplant should be soft and melting. Mash it with a fork or spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste.
5. If you want to do this as a proper meal, toss the eggplant purée with spaghetti cooked al dente. Stir in the minced tomatoes and basil. You might want to drizzle on more oil or a squeeze of lemon juice. Eat at once.