Saturday, November 22, 2008

A bowl of warmth

It was 19 degrees F outside this morning when the critters and I went on our walk to the Farmer's Market. We go every Saturday morning, partly because I like the ritual, and partly because the boy has a piano lesson later in the morning and if we don't get him some exercise before it, then he! bounces! off! the! walls! and has trouble concentrating on the music. It's about 1 mile each way from our house and that is sufficient to get the spazz out (well, most days...)

There isn't as much to buy in the winter, though we usually still pick up a dozen eggs, some cider, and maybe some hoop-house spinach. And the kids each get a cookie--the kind I don't make at home with frosting and sprinkles--as a reward. I'm kind of amazed that they are always game to go on this forced march with me (they even went last week when there was horizontal sleet hitting us in the face!) but I guess dangling a crappy cookie in front of them does wonders in the motivation department.

So now that we have established that it is cold outside but that we must go out in it, the project becomes making warming foods as a reward for those of us not motivated by crappy cookies. Soup is always good, but I have a new favorite warming dish of late:
It may just look like pasta with a meaty sauce, but look a little closer. There's ground lamb in there, and cubes of soft roasted eggplant, and some of those slow roasted tomatoes I made last summer. There is a tangy garlic-yogurt-mint sauce to offset the richness. And then, my favorite and the feature that makes the recipe over-the-top-comforting: some browned butter poured over the top.

This tasted really good served with a plain spinach salad with a sharp vinaigrette, but I can also imagine making a big bowl of this and just curling up on the couch with it while reading a good book, or watching a decent movie.

I adapted this from a recipe in the NYTimes that describes itself as deconstructed Turkish dumplings. I've never had Turkish dumplings but now I would like to try them!


1 large or 2 small eggplants, about 1 pound, in 1/2 -inch cubes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 t dried dill
1 C canned diced tomatoes (drained) or your own slow roasted tomatoes, if you have them
1/2 pound bowtie pasta (I made it with bowtie the first time and the corkscrew noodles pictured above the second and kind of prefer the bowties)
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
1 cup plain yogurt, set in a towel lined sieve to drain for about 1/2 an hour (or use about 2/3 C Greek yogurt)
1/2 C chopped fresh mint (optional, but good)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.
  2. Toss eggplant with 2 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet, making sure there is room between pieces, and roast until crisp and brown, stirring a couple of times, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the onion and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lamb and sauté until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain off excess fat (after all, you will be dumping butter over the resulting dish...) Then add 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, dill and black pepper to taste. Stir eggplant and tomatoes into lamb. Taste and adjust seasonings--you may need more salt.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, remaining garlic, chopped mint and a pinch of salt. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. When pasta is almost done, in a small saucepan, melt butter: the amount is to your taste (at least 1 T per serving). Let cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty (about 5 minutes) but be careful not to burn it.
  6. Drain pasta and spread on a serving platter. Top with lamb-eggplant-tomato mixture, then with yogurt sauce. Pour melted butter over top. Sprinkle on additional red pepper and more mint or dill, if you like. Serve immediately.


Edward Vielmetti said...

wow, that sounds awesome, Kate. I wonder if I can substitute enough things in there to make some version of it at home (minus: lamb, minus: eggplant) since I have a few tubs of slow roasted tomatoes looking for inspiration.

Jen said...

There's some great lamb at the farmers market, too.