Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meatballs with eggplant sauce + rice pilaf with bok choy + tomato-chili salsa

Eggplant sauce as a concept used to seem odd to me, not quite right somehow, until I reflected how delicious creamy, falling-apart-tender eggplant is in stews and don't need a recipe to make an eggplant sauce that can be served with pasta, as a bed for steamed or roasted vegetables, or, as in this case, as a warm bath for spicy vegan meatballs.

The whole key to a great eggplant sauce is grilling or roasting the eggplant properly, if in the oven on the highest shelf under the broiler, turning at least twice, until the skin is blackened pretty much all over and the inside is squishy-soft.  This would be even better grilled over an open flame, but we don't have one of those here at The Airy Way.

Take it out, let it cool (you can store it in the fridge for later use if you want), and when you're ready, slice it open and scrape out the soft insides.  Here's where the flavour is, in that lovely caramelized white flesh:

You can chop the flesh if you like your eggplant sauce chunky, but I wanted mine to be relatively smooth, so I put in in a bowl and processed it for a few seconds with an immersion blender.  While I was at it, I did the same with my peeled tomatoes:

Yes, you can leave the sticker on, so long as you peel them in the end!

Canned tomatoes would work fine in this recipe, and be easier, but my free fridge space is limited for the leftovers and I did have these nice ripe fresh ones.  For a sauce like this, you really do want to peel them.  This is easiest if you just cut a shallow cross into their bottoms, drop them (carefully!) into a pot of boiling water, and boil them for a minute or so until the skin starts to peel back.  Drain, cool a little, and then the skin comes right off. 

To make the sauce, start with sweating half an onion, finely chopped, in a frying pan with a little oil.  Once the onion is translucent, add some minced garlic to taste.  I like garlic, so I added two big cloves:

When the garlic is fragrant, pour in the tomato puree:

Season with salt and pepper, and let it reduce a bit, then add the pureed eggplant:

Everything's already cooked at this point, so all you're doing is heating it to let the flavours meld and to reduce to the texture you want.  Once that's been achieved, you can add your meatballs:

Hmm, there really are meatballs in there...
Gluten-based meatballs, the kind you steam, are pretty robust and can stand some simmering, but the TVP based meatballs I've been experimenting with lately are delicate and should only be warmed up very briefly in the sauce, unless you want them to fall apart, in which case you'll end up with an eggplant-TVP sauce, also good ;-)  I used this latter type, from the freezer, which were very spicy, one reason why I didn't add much seasoning to the eggplant sauce.

Mmm, served here with a rice pilaf, a sort of spanikorizo made with Shanghai bok choy rather than spinach and cooked in vegetable broth on the advice of my aunt Katee, who is an expert at this dish.  The bok choy adds a buttery flavour and retains a little crunch.  Also seen here is an easy and very fiery salsa made with chopped tomatoes, red onions, turmeric, one powerful fresh red chili, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice.

Some meals are best savoured in little bites of one item at a time.  And some, like this one, are best in a state of entropy:


  1. This looks perfectly......well, perfect! I love roasted eggplant.

  2. Gosh, who would have thought eggplant puree could become such a beautiful plateful of healthy food!

  3. This seems like a perfect way to use eggplant. Plus, eggplant already has such a buttery flavor, this sauce would be a perfect candidate for low-fat or fat-free cooking. Looks delish!

  4. I love this idea! I've never seen an egglpant sauce before, but it makes sense to use it with tomato...sounds delicious!

  5. During farmers market season, I tend to buy eggplants and then have no idea what to do with them...I need to remember this because it sounds great.

  6. I'm not hugely keen on eggplant (I know, I know), but I think that's just because I haven't yet found a way to prepare them awesomely. Except for baba ghanouj - who doesn't love that? Adding it to a sauce seems like a groovy idea, and I might have to give it a whirl next time some attractive eggplants show up at the store.

  7. I love this post , I wasn't sure what to do with the eggplant that I got. After reading your post I am going to have to try this.