Summer Chicken & Eggplant Pasta

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I have a confession to make.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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I know. Rebel without a cause, right here. ;)

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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. :)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Eee – I just love it when something you’ve never cooked before seems to be working out!

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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,

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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.

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Meanwhile, I got to work on the other veggies in the Summer Pasta – zucchini and tomatoes.

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First I used my vegetable peeler to make whisper-thin strips of the zucchini,

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then popped the tops off half a carton of juicy, Sweet 100 tomatoes.

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These. babies. ROCK!

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#1: they’re miniature. #2: they are sweeter than candy. Oooo I love ‘em!

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I tossed the tomatoes and zucchini slices with a wee bit of extra virgin olive oil, and more grill seasoning,

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then added ‘em to the Griddler when the chicken had come off.

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Can I tell you what a sight for sore eyes this meal was after yesterday’s fair food?

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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.

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Everybody piled onto a plate, drizzled with a bit more dressing, a few turns of freshly cracked pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil!

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The unknown, unplanned never tasted so good. :)

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Summer Chicken & Eggplant Pasta

Print this recipe!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2″ thick slices
2 chicken breasts, about 4oz each
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
salt & pepper
non-stick spray
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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. Spray chicken breasts with non-stick spray and season each side with grill seasoning.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

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The sugary-sweet juices from the tomatoes mixed with the savory dressing and made an incredible sauce for the pasta.

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A good lesson that sometimes the best things in life are unplanned. :)

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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! ;) )

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Comments

  1. Used my griddler tonight, too, for some veggie skewers and rosemary chicken. Your last minute pasta looks great! I bet you’d LOVE eggplant parmesan, or eggplant lasagna… simple, delicious, and healthy!

  2. Brittnie 08.15.2011

    Oh girl, I totally feel ya!! I am a planner all the way. I think I drive my husband crazy sometimes! :) I still carry an old school day planner and I take it with me everywhere. Yes. Everywhere. Sad but true! Ha! And, your dinner looks great. I love the way you describe your meals… delicious.

  3. anna 08.15.2011

    I’m about half and half. I usually look to see what’s on sale first and what I can plan around that, but if something looks good I’ll grab it and figure out what to do with it later! Especially fruits and veggies. I figure I can always throw them in a salad for lunch if I don’t find another use for them.

  4. Jill 08.15.2011

    Your meal looks healthy and delicious! I love summer veggies soo much. I am the COMPLETE opposite of you when it comes to planning. I am a craving-driven eater. I go to the store several times a week and just buy what I feel like eating at the moment. I get a thrill in thinking “what do I feel like eating today?” Luckily, the grocery store is a block away or I’d be in trouble! :)

  5. Stefanie 08.15.2011

    I am not so much of a planner, but I am a huge list maker, I guess I get more satisfaction out of crossing something off AND doing it rather than just getting it done, weird. I had to laugh because reading your blog has made me less of a meal planner, I know right? Thanks to you I have more creativity and am able to throw together meals with what I have on hand, vs. following a recipe from a book. This is a big step for me considering I am very type A :)

    • AJ 08.16.2011

      I’m a list maker too. I usually have four or five lists going… work to do, personal to do (long term), personal to do (short term), grocery list….

  6. I’m the same way Kristin. I always need something to focus on in the future. I try to live in the present, but i have to remind myself constantly! Plus, there is nothing wrong with planning/looking forward to things! I guess it’s all about perspective. :)

  7. ktlovespie 08.15.2011

    I try to plan meals for the week ahead but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It doesn’t help either that my lovely boyfriend works the night shift so he doesn’t wake up until 10pm. Makes having dinner together a little more difficult.

  8. Gene 08.15.2011

    I’m not a planner and am sort of amazed when I think about where I am in life. Happy, but amazed. :)

  9. I’m the same way – I used to plan on Saturdays so when I went to the market, I would either buy random stuff I had no clue what to do with, or buy nothing. I’ve taken to planning on Friday nights and throughout the week. I’d rather take advantage of the farmer’s market by spending some extra time planning during the week then wasting the opportunity and spending precious dollars at the grocery store!

  10. I prefer to go with the flow, but honestly I’m so much of a planner.. especially when it comes to recipes!
    That recipe looks delishhhhhh. Perfect for summer!

  11. Lindsey 08.15.2011

    I am 110% a planner but need to learn to let loose and go with the flow more :) Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned!
    I plan my meals for the next week on Fridays so that comes Saturday am I go to the market and grocery store prepared.

  12. Katie 08.15.2011

    Our farmers’ market is on Sunday morning, so I plan our menu on Saturday and get as much produce as I can while I’m there. Maybe your grocery store produce in Iowa is fresher, but in VA, there is a distinct difference in taste between the farmers’ market produce and the grocery store produce. Produce (especially fruit!) from the store is almost inedible compared to the yummy farm fresh fare! The taste alone is worth doing a little extra menu planning up front.

  13. debbie 08.15.2011

    oh I love eggplant! Spontaneity is good ;)

  14. What a beautiful dinner! It is so colorful and I love that it was unplanned.

    I like to plan, but the key is sticking to my plan. It’s easy for me to over buy and then to have a pantry full of things. I need to be better about sticking to my meal plan (which is my goal this week) and utilizing my pantry.

    I have always been one to have a plan for my life, but I’m learning life is better lived if you go with the flow and have dreams in mind!

  15. nicole 08.15.2011

    I have a love/hate relationship with eggplant. I hate it, I wish I loved it more. It’s a weird texture thing. I think eggplant should have skin removed because of it’s weird soft insides compared to it super chewy outside.

    Those tomatoes look amazing.

  16. I have never seen one of those Griddler appliances! How cool! :) I am usually a meal planner. However, when I was home last week my dad sent me home with a ton of produce from his garden so I have been kind of winging it so I don’t waste anything! In life in general I am a planner as well. It is kind of hard right now because I am starting my last semester of nursing school next Monday and I have no idea what the next step in my life will be after that. Trying to go with the flow!

  17. It’s like a Farmer’s Market cage match. You win! :)

  18. I have the same issue! A lot of times, I’ll pick up 1 or 2 items from the farmer’s market, but once I get home and plan out my meals, I’ll still have to go by the grocery store for other items.

    Hopefully one day I’ll be able to spot a delicious looking piece of produce and plan a meal around it on the spot, but for now, I’m a planner!

  19. Courtney 08.15.2011

    I am a BIG planner as well… I just function at my best when I have a list! I usually make a monthly list, weekly list (every Sunday), then daily list sometimes the night before. But always monthly and weekly… it makes me feel better and sleep better too! And secretly I put things on the list that didn’t make it in the first draft just to check them off hahah :)
    Glad your eggplant turned out yummy- the whole meal looks delicious girl!

  20. Love this! I am an absolute planner. If I don’t plan, I’d be shopping everyday and spending way too much. I can’t automatically see meals that come from the same ingredients without sitting down and thinking about it. This is inspirational though because it looks absolutely fantastic :) Definite motivation to bust out of my comfort zone. Thank you!

  21. Charis 08.15.2011

    I adore eggplant! There are yummy Indian ways to cook it too!

  22. Yum, that looks so tasty! I’ve never cooked eggplant either but I’ve been wanting to try out some eggplant parm or something. I like to plan out meals but it can be fun trying to figure out a recipe from what you already have!

  23. Angie 08.15.2011

    This looks delicious – nice work! I love slicing up zucchini like it’s pasta. Generally, I’m not much of a meal planner…I buy produce at the grocery store/farmers market all willy nilly without any real idea of what I plan to do with it. Imagine my surprise when it goes bad week after week ;) This week, I’m trying something new and planned out a whole week of meals before buying anything at the store last night. Fingers crossed.

  24. Amber 08.16.2011

    IF you enjoy eggplant…please, please go over to Pioneer Woman’s blog and eye up her “favorite pizza ever’. One of the BEST pizzas I have ever eaten…and I am just a tad of a veggie pizza lover.

    Thanks for the inspiration…I have a white eggplant I must use soon!

  25. Jessie 08.16.2011

    I plan the weeks menu on Monday. Doesn’t mean that I always go with it, but I have an idea. LOVE your idea. I have tons of eggplant in the garden and have some shrimp that I need to use. Thinking I will make this and use shrimp instead of chicken!

  26. Emily 08.16.2011

    I’m a planner – in every aspect of my life. From meals to workouts to weekends. I want to know what’s going on! I know it drives some people crazy but other times it can be beneficial.

  27. Hope 08.16.2011

    This meal looks delicious! I love eggplant. It’s one of my favorites for sure. :)

    I am a total planner with everything that I do. I try to plan out my meals as best as I can but sometimes things go off track.

  28. AJ 08.16.2011

    I’m a planner. I wish I could go with the flow more. Even the best laid plans can be a waste of time and energy; we can’t predict the future or what life has in store for us!

  29. Amy 08.16.2011

    I’m a planner and an inventer. When in doubt with leftover vegetables, make a stirfry! You can pretty much put any vegetable into a stir fry. It’s a great way not to let your produce go to waste.

  30. Stephanie Clement 08.16.2011

    Hey Kristin!!

    Odd question for ya: how much pasta do you serve yourself? Do you listen to the box’s serving size suggestion or do you just eye ball it? I never know…and feel like I always take too much!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 08.16.2011

      I just serve myself whatever I’m hungry for. The cooked serving size is usually a bit too small for me!

  31. Melissa 08.16.2011

    I’m a planner, but I also love throwing random ingredients together and having it work out!

    That dish looks fantastic. I’m a big fan of eggplant–you should throw some on a panini with mozzarella and fresh basil. Serious yumminess.

  32. Whitney 08.16.2011

    I get a little TOO excited at the farmer’s market and buy tons of stuff. Most of what I buy I end up concocting something wonderful. But sadly, some of it goes to waste :( I just need to remind myself that the wonderful fruits and veggies will STILL be there the next time I come!

  33. Megan 08.16.2011

    I am definately a planner but like to get creative in my planning! I usually separate my list into needed essentials that I know I need no matter what (coffee, eggs, etc) and then see what’s on sale that week and plan my weekday menu around that. I am lucky I don’t really have to buy much meat (it’s expensive!), except for chicken or pork once a week, because I have a freezer full of elk & deer meat.

  34. Julie 08.16.2011

    Thanks so much for this post! It’s my first time visiting your website and I love it! Your pictures are fabulous! I appreciate your effort and a dish that I know I will go ahead and make when I’m finished here! (next time I get to the store, of course…not always a planner with ingredients on hand:) )

  35. Angela Ten Clay 08.16.2011

    I’m a huge food planner too and am horrible at just going off the cuff and making something with a recipe or plan in place. I’m like that in life too, always planning for my future! :) Sounds just like you!

  36. Manya 08.18.2011

    I have a trick for eggplant, because I make moussaka and I want to make it as light as possible. I grill the eggplants without any oil, and after they’re shrinky and ready I put them in a bowl that has orange juice and some fresh mint. They become fluffy and very tasty afterwards.

  37. [...] Last year I made a wretchedly shameful confession on this blog. [...]

  38. Katie 06.04.2013

    I desperately try to plan meals (and successfully do and then shop for the items on Saturday or Sunday)…. then the week rolls around very rarely in the past year has a week rolled around where I wasn’t too conked from work + graduate school to cook and/or my hubby gets home so late from work when I’m fixing or already having my early prep tea/cocoa/etc. getting ready for bed/TV show line-up relaxation…. Can we trade lives for a day?! ;)

  39. […] Friday: Summer Chicken And Eggplant Pasta If you’re not the biggest fan of eggplant, adding chicken to your dish can make it a lot more flavourful. This easy pasta recipe includes cherry tomatoes and squash. Get the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats here. […]

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