Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eggplant and Tomato with Fried Basil and Quinoa

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away from our stove, fried basil met a balsamic reduction. It was, of course, love at first sight, but their affair began in difficult times: In the absence of grocery shopping, the protein choices had dwindled to quinoa or lentils. Eggplants and tomatoes from the produce box shifted anxiously on the counter, unsure of how to play together. A lone garlic clove stood watch in the fridge, while two tired and hungry cooks waited impatiently for inspiration, or a lost and unsuspecting pizza delivery guy. Whichever came first.

Then we made this. It had no right to be either delicious or filling, but it was both, and we'd make it again in a heartbeat.

1 cup mixed red and white quinoa (you'll have a bit extra for leftovers)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 small japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 tbsp veggie broth
Black mustard seeds
20 leaves fresh sweet basil, chiffonade
1 medium heirloom tomato, thickly sliced
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the quinoa and then let soak in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Drain well.

Combine the quinoa and broth in a small pot, bring to a boil, and turn down the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium heat until it simmers, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until the volume is reduce by half. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and the smashed garlic clove, and let it cook for a minute to flavor the oil. Add the eggplant and toss to coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle in a light scattering of mustard seeds and a pinch or two of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to brown.

Add the veggie broth and cover the pan, turning down the heat to medium-low. Let steam for 2-4 minutes. The eggplant should have mostly cooked through. Uncover, let any remaining liquid evaporate, and push the eggplant to one side of the pan. In the other side, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil (turn the heat back up to medium), and then toss in two-thirds of the basil. Fry for about a minute, then stir to combine with the eggplant. Add the tomato slices, gently stir a couple of times, sprinkle with salt, and turn off the heat.

Mix about two-thirds of the quinoa with a little olive oil, a teaspoon of balsamic reduction, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Divide into dishes. Serve the eggplant-tomato mixture on top, and drizzle with balsamic reduction before serving.

Serves 2, and pairs well with (I can't believe I'm saying this) roasted beets.

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