Friday, July 1, 2011

spelt berries with garden vegetables

I only recently discovered my appreciation for eggplant, so I'm not all that familiar with cooking it. In fact, I think the only time I've cooked with it at all was when I made moussaka back in the fall. I've been looking forward to eggplant, and this week we received 5 Chinese eggplants (I think they're Chinese-- they're small and don't look like the regular big ones) in our CSA. Three were purple, and two were white, and I decided to use them, along with the patty pan squash and grape tomatoes from our box, to make spaghetti with garden vegetables.* I didn't have any spaghetti in the house, though, so I made it with spelt berries. Get ready for an overflowing pan of vegetables.

Martha's recipe calls for lots of different veggies, but I used what I had. I started by sauteeing finely chopped carrots and onion along with some garlic in olive oil. I was supposed to let these caramelize with some celery, but I had neither celery nor the time for that step. I cooked the aromatics for about 10 minutes, added crushed red pepper flakes, fresh basil, and salt, and poured in 1/2 cup white wine. Once that was mostly evaporated, I stirred in the eggplant and squash. After about 5 minutes, I added a bunch of halved grape tomatoes.
About the tomatoes: Martha says use 3 medium, but I just chopped what was left after EDW and I stuffed our faces with the fresh tomatoes on Tuesday. Seriously, these orange babies were fantastic. I won't say we popped them like candy (because let's be honest: tomatoes are not candy) but we did gobble them with the same intensity as our super sweet blueberries.
I covered the vegetables, cooked them for 10 minutes, and hoped for the best. When I took the top of the pan, I was immediately concerned with how saucy it had all become, not to mention the fact that cooked eggplant turns a totally unappealing color. How is it possible that this vegetable is so beautiful whole and raw and so unappetizing in appearance once it's sliced and cooked?

I added some marjoram, my cooked spelt berries, and more salt and pepper. Once I'd removed the pan from the stove, I stirred in more fresh basil and some sliced scallions, because I had them and they're pretty. On impulse, I stirred in a couple handfuls of spinach. The spinach didn't cook fully, but it wilted a bit and added a lovely pop of color to the dish.
This was incredible. Edwin and I would probably eat it every day of the week, with one change: the red pepper flakes. Martha's recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, which is what I used, but it's much too strong of a flavor. Next time I'll use 1/2 teaspoon and go from there. As for using spelt berries instead of spaghetti? Here it works. While spaghetti would be delicious, the spelt berries add a nice chewiness to the dish. We had pasta on Monday and haven't had spelt berries since I fractured my elbow, so they were a welcome change of pace. I'd make this again. I'd eat this again.
Thanks, Martha, preesh.

*Stewart, Martha. The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. "Spaghetti with Garden Vegetables." p. 220.

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