Orecchiette with Marinated Eggplant, Chiles, and Burrata (modified from Food and Wine, July 2010)
This will be the first of my recommended recipes series. As you may know, I'm not very good yet at completely inventing my own dishes (I'm working on it though, and it will be better than the bizarre foods of my youth...). Until then, I am currently an obsessive fan of Food and Wine, I subscribe to the annual recipe books and hound their website every day looking for amazing new dishes to try. I'm rarely disappointed, and I usually learn something new, like a flavor or wine pairing, or use of a new ingredient.
The author of this Puglia-based recipe, Missy Robbins, is one amazing chic (I say that because this recipe is amazing). She apparently is Executive Chef A Voce in New York, and was awarded one of F&W's Best New Chefs of 2010. Honey, I will get to A Voce one day! I swear! I will make the pilgrimage after having this dish.
This recipe calls for one of the odder pasta shapes, the orecchiette, which in Italian, means something like "small ear". This pasta holds sauces very well, and is better for those that just coat the shape. Its a fun texture.
but this article pretty much sums up how I feel.
Yes, that is vinegar. Brilliant! Its pretty tangy to add to a pasta dish, but it almost coats the pasta like a warm pasta salad, and pulls all the other flavors out of their hiding places.
The cool creamy milkiness of the burrata on the warm, tangy, spicy pasta, is something of wonder. Have this dish with a glass of fruity red - the only thing to handle all of the forward flavors of the dish. I had 2010 Pallas Tempranillo on hand, and it worked like magic. Made all my worries melt away, just as the Burrata melted over everything else.
The original recipe is here, but I've made some mods, below:
2 large Asian eggplants(1 pound total), halved lengthwise and quartered
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
5 large garlic cloves, thinly shaved or sliced
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 pound orecchiette
1/4 cup grated pecorino
1 cup whole leaves flat-leaf parsley
1/2 pound burrata cheese, creamy filling scooped out
1 lemon's worth of juice, and all the zest
5 oil-marinated red chiles, cut into thin strips
-Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the cut sides of the halved eggplants with olive oil and season with salt. Grill the eggplants cut side down over moderate heat until lightly charred and browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Dice the eggplants into 1 inch bits and pour the vinegar over them.
-In a small saucepan, combine the 1/4 cup olive oil with the garlic, marjoram, crushed red pepper and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring the oil to a simmer, then pour it over the eggplant and toss. Let stand for 30 minutes, but longer is ok.
-In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
-Add the vinegar-soaked eggplant to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring lightly, until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the orecchiette and the reserved cooking water and cook, toss. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the pecorino, parsley, lemon and zest, and chiles. Smell, because its GOOD.
-Scoop the pasta into bowls. Place 3-4 little magical dollops of burrata filling over each bowl.
Photo of burrata courtesy of Jannsen's Market of Delaware