At our 39 week prenatal visit, we discussed with our doctor the many ways to encourage labor along naturally . Borage oil, black and blue cohosh, exercise, and acupuncture were laid out on the table. "And of course," Doctor said, "there's always eggplant." Now, the power of the placebo effect is well-documented - tried and tested by the scientific method. My only job was to believe - really believe - that eating eggplant would set off a hormonal chain reaction that would hasten our baby's birthday.
Back at home I cracked open Marcella Hazan's excellent cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and got to work. While I was at it, I made two types of foccacia - a Genoese style loaf with sautéed onions and one with green olives and fresh oregano. When Alex came home from the workshop he said, "I think this is what our childbirth educator meant when she talked about 'over the top nesting' being a sign of impending labor."
Hard telling if it was the eggplant, the borage oil, the gentle birth tincture, the lunges - but our Vita Rose began her descent 30 hours later. On Friday, June 26th at 7:16 pm, Alex and I locked eyes with our daughter and fell into an impenetrable trancelike love-state that has yet to be broken. John, Amanda, & Kyle are staying busy in the workshop while the three of us take some time to get to know each other. Now more than ever, we feel grateful for the loving, dynamic, supportive community that surrounds us. We can't wait to introduce Vita to each one of you.
Eggplant and Ricotta Sauce, Sicilian Style
1 to 1.5 lbs Eggplant
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup White Onion, sliced very thin
1.5 Teaspoons Chopped Garlic
2 Cups of fresh, ripe Italian plum tomatoes, skinned with a peeler and hollowed out OR, in a pinch: canned, whole San Marzano Tomatoes
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 Tablespoons fresh Ricotta
10 to 15 fresh basil leaves - gently torn
1 Pound Dry Pasta (The only brand I really love is De Cecco - "cartwheels" are traditional, but fusilli and rigatoni work well, too - something with holes and ridges!)
Freshly Ground Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste
Step One: Cut off the eggplant's green spiky cap. Peel and cut it into 1.5 inch cubes - but don't be too fussy about it. Put the cubes into a colander over the sink and sprinkle liberally with salt. Really let it fly - do not be shy. Let the eggplant steep with the salt for about one hour - this will help make the eggplant less bitter
Step Two: Rinse the eggplant in cold running water. Wrap them in a dry cloth towel, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Spread the eggplant out onto a clean, dry towel.
Step Three: Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until the oil comes about 1/2 inch up the pan. Turn to medium high heat. When the oil is quite hot, When, slip in as many of the eggplant pieces at one time as will fit loosely in the pan. If you can't fit them all in at one time, fry them in two or more batches. As soon as the eggplant feels tender when prodded with a fork, transfer it with a slotted spoon or spatula to a cooling rack or to a platter lined with paper towels to drain. Now's a good time to get a big pot of water going for the pasta. Salt your pasta water liberally.
Step Four: Pour off the oil and wipe the pan clean with paper towels. Put in the olive oil and the sliced onion and turn heat to medium high. Sautè the onion until light gold, then add the chopped garlic and cook for only a few seconds, stirring as you cook. Do not burn the garlic - yuck.
Step Five: Add the tomato. If you are using canned tomatoes, simply squish them in your hand as they enter the pan. Turn up the heat to high, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until there is a film of oil over the tomato. (Don't forget to cook the pasta!)
Step Six: Add the eggplant and some black pepper - your call- stir, and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for just a minute or two more, stirring once or twice. Taste and salt to your liking.
Step Seven: Toss the cooked and drained pasta with the eggplant sauce, add the grated romano, the ricotta, and the basil leaves. Toss again, mixing all ingredients thoroughly into the hot pasta, and serve at once, with the grated Parmesan on the side.
Step Eight: Have a baby. Or not.