Well, tonight’s dinner was not the rousing success I was hoping for. The mission was to improve upon the worst catered meal I’ve had. I’ve had some pretty bad catered meals, but the worst was the stewed eggplant I used to get at professional society meetings – bland and flavorless, served over some dried out quinoa and sitting next to some limp vegetables.
Like many of our meals, this one started at the Farmer’s Market. We picked up some beautiful, multicolored Thai eggplant, vibrant green beans, fresh flowering quinoa, and the biggest heirloom tomato we’ve ever seen.
The quinoa was the strangest part. We bought it not knowing what to do with it. The internet wasn’t much help, either. in the end, I stripped some flowers off the stalks, and roasted them with a tiny bit of lime juice. It worked, but the flavor of the quinoa was just too bitter for our tastes.
The best part was the green beans. I blistered them in some hot oil, and then added some fresh blood orange juice and zest with a little soy sauce, and cooked it down until the beans were well coated. As a final touch, I topped the beans with a handful of chopped hazelnuts. It had a great flavor – the sweet, salty, and sour were all wonderfully balanced.
Do not fear, intrepid readers, I did not forget that we have dubbed our first week of MoFo as “Taco Week”. The centerpiece of tonight’s dinner was a stewed eggplant taco. Mexican-Italian fusion, if you will. I tried to recreate the idea of the bad catered meal I’ve faced down so many times, but make it delicious and in taco form! I stir-fried some eggplant chunks with a little salt and mignonette pepper and then removed them from the pan. Then, I stir-fried some elephant garlic and added most of that giant heirloom tomato along with some salt and oregano. I cooked that down for a while, and then added the eggplant chunks back in to stew for a while. When the whole thing was cooked through, I used this mixture to fill corn/whole wheat blend tortillas and topped them with a little crumbled Kite Hill ricotta.
The tacos were decent, but nothing to write home about. The bitterness of the little Thai eggplant was just a little too much with the acid of the tomatoes. In the past, I’ve used these little beauties in a coconut milk based curry, and the bitter edge played so well off of the sweetness of the coconut milk.
Not every meal is going to be a stunner, and I hope I’ve learned a few lessons from tonight’s efforts!