My friend Heather M. has a garden. Wonderful things come out of this garden. She grows giant zucchini!
The tomato is there for size comparison. It’s not a big tomato or a small tomato, but an average sized tomato. But still – look at the size of that zucchini!
She has also given me peppers, tomatoes and, my favorite, Japanese eggplant.
My Grandma goes to a little produce stand in the North San Fernando Valley (a suburb of Los Angeles) once a month to get the most amazing, flavorful, huge, ripe tomatoes I’ve ever had. Here’s one next to a decent sized head of garlic:
I found myself with a bunch of tomatoes and a bunch of Heather’s Japanese eggplant that were about to go bad. So I decided to roast them with a bunch of other vegetables and make a marinara sauce with them. This sauce is deceptively simple, but has the most wonderful, creamy, hearty texture and delicious, rich, complex flavor.
Here’s what you do! Get out a big sheet pan. Cut 5 or 6 small Japanese eggplant in half. Peel and cut some onions in half (red and white). Cut the very top off a couple of heads of garlic and put them on the sheet pan – skin and all. Put some delicious tomatoes on there too. If you have room, you can also add peppers or any other veggies you feel like sneaking into the sauce. Coat all the veggies in olive oil, mixing them around with your hands. Wipe off your hands and then sprinkle them all generously with salt and pepper.
Pop them into a 450F oven for 40 minutes or until the eggplant are very soft and almost falling apart.
Take the veggies out and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. Squeeze each garlic clove out of its skin and throw out the skins.
In the meantime, if you want mushrooms or other whole veggies in your sauce, saute them in a little olive oil in a big sauce pan. Now you should add whatever herbs you like: oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, and basil are all good. Next, deglaze the pan with a little white wine and cook until the alcohol is mostly cooked off. Now you’re ready to start blending!
Get out your trusty blender or food processor and blend up those roasted veggies in batches. Pour the resulting puree into the sauce pan with the other veggies and herbs. Mix well, taste for salt and add some if you need it. I usually don’t. Heat up and serve over the pasta of your choice with a little bit of a good quality parmesan grated on top.
This is a great way to get a bunch of vegetables into you (or your kids) without feeling like you just ate a garden. The roasted garlic and eggplant make the sauce extremely rich and creamy, but there’s no fat in it other than the olive oil you roasted the veggies in and the little bit of parmesan cheese you may choose to put on top!