I have a confession to make.
Sometimes I go to the Farmers’ Market and don’t buy anything, then turn around the next day and buy the same fresh produce I could’ve gotten there, at the grocery store. I know – SHAME!
I obviously want to support my local farmers, but if I don’t have my menu planned for the upcoming week when I go to the market on Saturday mornings, I don’t buy anything ’cause I don’t know what I’ll need yet!
My Mom is the complete opposite. She’ll see a bright and shiny pepper at our favorite stand and invent a dish to use it in on the spot. Me? I’m a planner. Plan, plan, plan. Yes, the tomatoes are quite possibly the most brilliant looking things I have ever seen – but what will I use them in? What if they go to waste? I hate wasting food more than I hate not buying at the Farmers’ Market.
Well sometimes you’ve got to let your hair down and take a risk, which is exactly what I did this weekend. I bought produce that – gasp! – I didn’t have a plan for!
I know. Rebel without a cause, right here.
Not only did I buy produce I didn’t have a plan for, but I bought something I’ve never even cooked before – eggplant – and used it to create light & healthy Summer Pasta that I decided on after I got home.
You all gave me some great suggestions on how to prepare the eggplant, including slicing it up, then salting it to draw out the vegetable’s excess moisture and bitterness – which is exactly what I did.
I cut the EP into ~1/2″ slices, then just barely dusted each side with sea salt. After 10 minutes, the surface was covered in tiny droplets of water. Cool!
I blotted the excess water off with a paper towel, then brushed each side with olive oil and seasoned with freshly cracked pepper. I figured some salt would remain after blotting, so I held off on adding more.
Next I busted out my Griddler and let the eggplant slices sizzle away on high, until one side was slightly soft and developed grill marks, ~3 minutes, before flipping and cooking the other side.
Eee – I just love it when something you’ve never cooked before seems to be working out!
While the eggplant was doin’ its thang on one side of the Griddler, I tossed a couple chicken breasts seasoned with grill seasoning on the other side,
and cooked some angel hair pasta on the stove, which I tossed with Bisignano’s Italian Dressing when it was done. Homemade balsamic vinaigrette would be fantastic if you can’t get your hands on this stuff.
Meanwhile, I got to work on the other veggies in the Summer Pasta – zucchini and tomatoes.
First I used my vegetable peeler to make whisper-thin strips of the zucchini,
then popped the tops off half a carton of juicy, Sweet 100 tomatoes.
These. babies. ROCK!
#1: they’re miniature. #2: they are sweeter than candy. Oooo I love ‘em!
I tossed the tomatoes and zucchini slices with a wee bit of extra virgin olive oil, and more grill seasoning,
then added ‘em to the Griddler when the chicken had come off.
Can I tell you what a sight for sore eyes this meal was after yesterday’s fair food?
I tossed the veggies every once and a while, until the zucchini lost its crunch, and the tomatoes began to split and burst from the heat.
Everybody piled onto a plate, drizzled with a bit more dressing, a few turns of freshly cracked pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil!
The unknown, unplanned never tasted so good.
Summer Chicken & Eggplant Pasta
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2″ thick slices
2 chicken breasts, about 4oz each
1 yellow squash
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
salt & pepper
grill seasoning (I like McCormick’s)
6oz angel hair pasta
5 Tablespoons good, olive oil-based Italian dressing, divided
8-10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn
- Lay eggplant slices on a cooling rack. Generously salt each side and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot excess moisture and salt off the top with a paper towel. Brush each side with extra virgin olive oil and season with pepper.
- Spray chicken breasts with non-stick spray and season each side with grill seasoning.
- Cut the ends off the zucchini and yellow squash, then cut in half. Cut into strips with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, then add strips and tomatoes into a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil and grill seasoning.
- Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat and generously spray with non-stick spray. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the eggplant slices until tender, about 3 minutes per side. Grill squash, zucchini and tomatoes together until tender, tossing every so often, about 5 minutes total. Chop chicken and eggplant into bite-sized pieces.
- Meanwhile add angel hair pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with 3 Tablespoons Italian dressing.
- Divide pasta between four plates. Top with grilled chicken, eggplant, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Drizzle each plate with the remaining Italian dressing, and sprinkle with fresh basil.
The eggplant was spongy in texture – but NOT mushroom spongy – like meaty spongy, and was AWESOME. I can’t wait to cook it again!
The sugary-sweet juices from the tomatoes mixed with the savory dressing and made an incredible sauce for the pasta.
A good lesson that sometimes the best things in life are unplanned.
Ben and I are getting our night cap in the form of an evening walk. We were going to go before dinner but it was a little too hot potato out. Guess summer’s not done with us yet!
Have a great night!
Are you a meal planner, or do you pick up what looks good and decide what to do with it later?
How about in life? Must you always have a vision for the future, or do you prefer to just go with the flow?
Like I said – I am a die-hard planner. If I don’t have something I’m working towards, or something to look forward to, I get unhappy. I need to be challenged almost constantly! (God bless my family for putting up with me! )