Monday, March 12, 2012

Eggplant Tapenade Pasta

After nearly a month of cooking up a storm and forgetting to post about it, the Clock-Racing Gourmet is back!  This past Saturday I ran my first marathon in four years, the inaugural Columbia Marathon, and crossed the finish line after 3:46:26 of nonstop running.  Hells yeah!

My pre-race meal was at the Good Life Cafe, a place I never would have considered back when I still thought that you had to eat a giant mound of pasta - which they don't serve - on race night.  I had their Mediterranean wrap with a big kale salad on the side and their (sugar-free) strawberry shortcake smoothie for dessert.  The wrap - made of flaxseed? - included an eggplant tapenade spread that I really liked.  After the marathon, Steve and I went to Mezza, the new Lebanese place on Gervais (for those of you who live in Columbia).  Now that I'm vegan, the most obvious choice of lunch plate was their falafel wrap with tabouli and baba ghanouj on the side.  So, having had pureed eggplant two meals in a row, I found myself on a roll and wanting to try my hand at eggplant tapenade.  I'd seen recipes before but never gotten around to it.  I knew I had to for the same reason I would no longer consider buying pesto at the supermarket: it's easy to find, but I'd really rather make it myself so that it won't want for flavor.  I mentioned the idea to Steve, and a lovely eggplant and some Roma tomatoes showed up in the fridge shortly afterward.

After perusing a few recipes, I decided that this one was the most straightforward.  I skipped the balsamic vinegar and agave nectar and substituted half a yellow onion (since it really doesn't matter if it's going in the oven first).  I also spaced out and forgot to add the garlic.  Oh, well - next time.

The result?  Truth be told, it came out a lot like baba ghanouj.  Maybe it's because I just hit the Food Processor button and let it go until it was smooth, but I suppose I had looked forward to something a little chunkier.  Flavorwise, it came out well despite the omission of garlic.  I waited until the food processor step to add about three tablespoons of lemon juice, maybe a teaspoon of salt and about 15-20 turns of fresh ground black pepper.  I also threw most of the fresh parsley into the mix because I got a little carried away, snipping it in the backyard, so I had a lot more than a couple of tablespoons to work with.  The shreds that I used for a garnish are but a tiny fraction of what I used altogether.

I mixed this into some orzo pasta because, expecting a chunkier result, I was afraid that if I used bigger or longer pasta, the tapenade would all find its way to the bottom of our plates without really adorning the pasta.  I needn't have worried, so next time I just might use some linguine instead.  I served this over a bed of fresh spinach because I was too lazy to make a salad.  Once it was all plated up, I drizzled a little more olive oil and lemon juice over the top (paying special attention to the visible spinach leaves) and added a little more fresh ground pepper.  Fabulous!

Now that winter's over in SC, I'm already at work on my spring/summer vegetable garden.  I look forward to blogging in the upcoming months about recipes made with the fruit and veggies of my backyard labor! 

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